With their Jeff Tweedy-produced new album, the acclaimed bluegrass outfit find themselves on a fast track forward
Today’s bluegrass isn’t your daddy’s bluegrass anymore.
Where once it conjured up images of old folks in overalls picking and playing on the porch in some far side of Appalachia, nowadays it’s a musical magnet that extends to the furthest reaches of the world and brings the faithful to festivals through its populist appeal.
Trampled by Turtles can claim some of the credit for that transition. The Duluth, Minnesota-based band boasts a career that stretches back nearly 20 years and encompasses nine albums released in the interim. So too, their new effort, Alpenglow, offers one more reason why they rank among the most popular and progressive bands within today’s so-called “nu-grass” sphere.
Artist: Trampled by Turtles
Label: Banjodad Records
★★★★ (4/5 stars)
Taking its title from the reddish haze that the sun casts on the western mountains at dusk and at dawn, it’s as beautifully illuminated as its name suggests. That’s no small feat, given that it’s Trampled by Turtles’ first new offering since 2018’s Life Is Good On The Open Road.
This is, after all, a band that has no trouble sharing their serenity through aural impressions and scenic suggestion.
Produced by Jeff Tweedy — clearly a good choice when it comes to having a sympathetic soul behind the boards — Alpenglow shines a light on a series of mellow, meandering melodies that are as seductive as they are suggestive. Yet that doesn’t mean it’s free of cares and concerns. The regrets and resignation are palpable in several of these songs — the delicate dream-like drift of “It’s So Hard To Hold On,” the sincerity and sentiment shared in “Starting Over,” the sobering sounds of “Central Hillside Blues,” and the furtive farewell given “The Party’s Over.”
Likewise, despite its banjo breaks and appealing instrumentation, “All the Good Times Are Gone” lives up to its pessimistic premise, suggesting that for all the scenic splendor, this is a troubled and traumatized world after all.
Still, all is not lost. “We’re Alright” shines a light on overall optimism, while “On the Highway,” “A Lifetime To Find,” “Burlesque Desert Window,” and “Nothing But Blue Skies” make the point that there’s always hope on the horizon. Happily, that’s the overall impression that’s left through the arc of these efforts.
Ultimately, it’s the music that matters, and with Alpenglow, Trampled by Turtles offer soothing sounds shared through articulate arrangements, supreme clarity and cohesion. Ultimately then, one needn’t be a bluegrass aficionado to fully appreciate the band’s delicate designs.
The truth is, after all, Alpenglow is decidedly radiant in a most gratifying sort of way.
VIDEO: Trampled By Turtles “Burlesque Desert Window”