The Be Good Tanyas

Local talent is usually overlooked. It’s a fact of life. Right now, if you are a Canadian musician who isn’t from Montreal or part of Broken Social Scene, you get no love. Vancouver is producing some great music, and a lot of the acts are flying under the radar. One of these acts is the nu-grass trio, The Be Good Tanyas (Frazey Ford – vocals/guitars, Samantha Parton – vocals/guitar/mandolin, Trish Klein – electric guitar/banjo). I might have made up the term nu-grass. In my head it means modern music influenced by classic bluegrass/country roots. Nu-grass – it’s the next emo.

Country is making a huge comeback in the hipster community. Successful alt-country albums by Bright Eyes, Devandra, Iron and Wine, Loretta Lynn and most recently, Indie darling Jenny Lewis, have opened the ears of music fans everywhere. With the successful release of the Johnny Cash movie, Walk the Line, country is going to make a huge splash into the mainstream again.

The timing couldn’t be better for people to discover the Vancouver based trio, The Be Good Tanyas. I recently fell in love with their release, The Blue Horse. It fits perfectly into what is hot today. A mixture of originals and covers, the trio mixes guitar, piano, mandolin, and banjo to create a fantastic sound. Unbelievably, this album was released four years ago.

The opening track, The Littlest Birds, bounces along, powered by a nice finger plucked banjo riff and highlighted by some every cat’s favorite tender fiddles. The power of the track is the vocals of Frazey and Samantha. The two voices compliment each other perfectly. Much like Tegan and Sara, they don’t compete with each other. They simple mesh to form a unique sound, sharing the spotlight equally. This track is actually featured on the The Very Best of Country Gold - The Most Popular Country Music of All Time compilation, which boasts tracks from Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton.

As the guitar and drums of Rain and Snow starts, you can’t help but be reminded of the sounds heard recently on Sam Beam’s Woman King EP. However, instead of Sam’s subdued vocals, you have a lovely female voice warming the track.

Lakes of Pontchartrain is hands down my favorite song. The trio puts their own spin on this song (recognizable to most Dylan fans). The banjo/guitar riff is infectious. The trio also takes a stab at The Coo-Coo Bird and Oh Susanna. I actually didn’t think I could be impressed by any cover of a song I was forced to sing at camp, but the emotion put into this version makes it shine.

Completely changing styles, Only in the Past is a singer/songwriter styled piece that brings to mind Sarah McLachlan or even Sheryl Crow. Hopefully that doesn’t make you think less of the track, because it’s a beautiful song. It’s another TBGT original, and the final verse is a lovely harmony that really adds depth to the song.

Light Enough to Travel is a perfect book end to the album. Fueled by a heavier drum beat and a simple guitar riff, this track focuses on the vocals and a sing along chorus that is more or less, just fun.

Hopefully they will be back in Vancouver soon. But in the meantime, cop this record and enjoy.

@ 2:15 PM, Blogger carl kicked the following game:

Actually "newgrass" is a longstanding term in bluegrass circles; nu-grass is not a bad variation for the likes of the Tanyas, who aren't really part of those circles; though alt-grass might be more to the point, and avoid the icky association with nu-metal.


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