Voodoo is a spiritual belief commonly associated with New Orleans or Haiti. But there must be some supernatural force in the mountains of North Carolina’s Haywood County, because the ascent of the Balsam Range bluegrass band has been nothing but magical.
With their sixth CD, “Mountain Voodoo,” the award-winning band extends the creative trajectory that’s earned them a roomful of IBMA trophies, including Entertainer of the Year (2014), top vocal group (2014, ’15), and top male vocalist (Buddy Melton, 2014).
Intelligent, engaging songs address themes of leaving, longing and home
In the opening track, “Something ’bout that Suitcase,” Melton muses on the stories contained in an otherwise everyday object: “Are you leavin’ town/Looking for a new start/Or cashin’ in, headed home/Carryin’ a broken heart?”
“I Hear the Mountains” is a lonesome, far from home reflection on “the place that gave me my start.” The country side of Keith Whitley echoes in the tear-in-my-beer honky-tonker, “Hello Heartache.” And bassist Tim Surrett imparts a Southern gospel flavor to “Wish You Were Here,” embedded in the lovely lush harmonies that are a hallmark of Balsam Range music.
Anthropologists classify voodoo as a form of “imitative magic.” But there’s nothing imitative in these 13 tracks unless one considers that Balsam Range channels the esthetics of Bill Monroe, Flatt and Scruggs, and other bluegrass pioneers.
One of the most exciting bluegrass bands to emerge in the past five year, Balsam Range is deserving of all the honors that have come their way.
Correspondent Jack Bernhardt