By Larry Stephens
Bluegrass music listeners know this family band makes good music, most notably from. A release from the song “Looking Forward To Look Back,”a track from their last CD that went to #1 on the Bluegrass Today airplay chart. On their new project, Phil and Dorene Bankester, their three daughters—Alysha (mandolin, fiddle), Melissa (bass) and Emily (fiddle, clawhammer banjo)—and Melissa’s husband, Kyle Triplett (everything but the fiddle) take yet another step forward.
It’s been said that family harmonies are the best and with the daughters providing most of the vocals, nothing you hear on these numbers will put the lie to that statement. Their instrumental work is as strong as their vocals, and, as country music has taught us, commercial success is linked to marketability and having three lovely youngsters out in front of the band boosts their market appeal.
“When I’m Gone” is an old number co-written by A. P. Carter. The Carter Family version has found new life from the Bankesters as “Cups (When I’m Gone)” and the change in title is best explained by the video for the song, which was a centerpiece in the 2012 film, Pitch Perfect (performed by Anna Kendrick in the film). Sierra Hull plays mandolin and contributes vocals (and appears in the video). I was sold at the 2:48 mark – the two young girls doing the cups could as well be my granddaughters.
Another good one is “Love Has Wheels” which includes Josh Williams on guitar and harmony vocals. It rolls along at a fast clip, driven by a solid bass beat. “Rise Up” is a change of pace with the only instrument a bluesy guitar played by Jim Hurst. This is an excellent opportunity to hear just how well they sing harmony.
I don’t hear any Bill Monroe in “I Gotta Have You” but I believe most bluegrass crowds would be okay with it, especially the great bass lines. “Reluctant Daughter” is a different take on a gospel song and features some nice clawhammer banjo. “Love Don’t Give Up On Me” features Rob Ickes on the banjo and ventures into the pop/country genre more than bluegrass. It’s one of several tracks that features Larry Atamanuik (who has appeared with Alison Krauss) on percussion. Traditionalists frown upon drums in bluegrass, but these are not over the top. Personally, I would be happy without them but I’m not in a lather about it.
Alison Brown produced the CD and appears on “Found,” another country-pop influenced song.
This is a group with a bright future. Whether they choose the traditional sounds of bluegrass, range farther out, or work both sides of the road, they make good music and should draw a diverse crowd of fans.