Billy Strings – “Home”
– out now
4.5 / 5
“Holy bluegrass!” Yes, that is our first impression when we clicked play on Billy Strings’ fourth studio album. The Lansing, MI guitarist came to our attention through a friend excited to catch him live, and, loving Bela Fleck’s brand of “blue-bop,” we knew we had to give Strings (neé Apostol) a spin. Home is home to a more traditional bluegrass than Fleck’s, with a pinch of something new: a little electronic, a little political statement, even.
The earworm of a song “Away from the Mire” is a beautiful, blue melody suffused with an extended solo, pierced with electric guitar echoing through. If bluegrass weren’t a thing (and heaven save that planet!) we’d label it close to pop, melancholy with an upbeat heart, which, at nearly eight minutes, shatters the mold of the catchy three-minute radio song. It is, by and far, our favorite and most memorable song on the LP. Another one that caught our ear is “Watch it Fall,” a song ostensibly about losing love that morphs into seeing “Wall Street skimming from the till/ While no one minds the store… How long until there’s nothing left at all?” While a straightforward bluegrass song melody-wise, we appreciated the current vibes and consciousness this song gives to an old, old genre. We’d personally like a little more experimentation, and a slight dash more strength in Strings’ lyrics, though that is clearly not the center of the show, here.
Strings is as dense a plucker as we’ve seen (heard, really) in the past several years, and Home is a return to the classic bluegrass sound, while taking it gently from its comfort zone. Highly recommended.