Swaying to a slow but consistently evocative beat, we find the duet between the strings and a warm lead vocal in “Dear God,” one of the thirteen songs comprising the new album from High Fidelity, Banjo Player’s BluesBanjo Player’s Blues offers balladry mixed with searing bluegrass breakdowns, and although its cocktail of textures and tones might be a bit much for the casual ‘grass listener, it’s a smooth-sipping combo for any serious fan like myself. High Fidelity are releasing a very diverse LP this June, but beneath its many-splendored melodies lies a fundamentals-first Americana that most anyone can fall in love with.

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The vocals are surprisingly strong in “The Picture on the Wall,” “Old Home Place” and the lightning-fast “The South Bound Train,” competing with an instrumental prowess that comes second to none this June. Even in their most streamlined attacks here, High Fidelity never sound particularly out of focus or unguarded when connecting with each other musically. In all honesty, I think they tend to be a little tighter when they’re working through a fast number compared to a slower ballad, but regardless of tempo, this is one record that doesn’t feature any hesitant harmonies in the whole of its running time.

I was also impressed with how well the lyrics were integrated into the fabric of the melodies in “His Charming Love,” “Helen,” “Take My Ring From Your Finger” and “Dear God.” As masterfully cohesive as the instrumentals “Turkey in the Straw” and “Feudin’ Banjos” are, these songs feature a simplistic amalgamation of vocals and strings that a lot of young bluegrass bands could learn a lot from. You don’t have to employ a lot of fancy technology to achieve the sound High Fidelity has; with disciplined practice and surreal chemistry, this sort of music has stayed alive for centuries (and mostly in the shadow of the Appalachians to boot).

There is no getting away from the majestic harmonies in “You Made the Break,” “The Picture on the Wall” and “Got a Little Light,” and I don’t think you need to be a professional critic to recognize the organic tone in each of these tracks. Nothing about any of the songs on Banjo Player’s Blues sounds as though it were created via artificial means – from the broken melodies that clash together between the banjo, mandolin, fiddle and guitar to the supple harmonization of the singers here, this is 100% meat and potatoes bluegrass as it was meant to be served.

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If this is on par with what High Fidelity have got planned for their future releases, I think that Banjo Player’s Blues is going to trigger a lot more attention for their music moving ahead. This LP doesn’t ask for a hundred sit-downs before it finally reveals its soul to the audience; from the moment we press play to the second the music disappears into silence, High Fidelity make it perfectly clear who they are and what they’re all about. You have to appreciate that in 2020 – after all, it isn’t very easy to come by in any genre anymore.

Nicole Killian

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