It’s nice to know that lost arts are not, in fact, lost at all. Run Boy Run have preserved for our ears something delightful. It feels both old fashioned and very new. It’s a joyous album from beginning to end that a lot of fans of traditional Appalachian music will enjoy.
The opening “Song of the Whippoorwill” showcases incredible picking and vocal blending. It’s a mostly instrumental song that lures listeners in to the rest of the song. “Get Up Jake” has a newer sound to it with a mature female vocal that drives the melody. The fiddle work on this track, especially at the break, really makes the song work.
“Silver Dagger” brings a soft, innocent female vocal lead. The lyrics tell a romantic (or anti-romantic?) message of arranged marriage and loss. It harkens to bluegrass’s roots (yes, even roots have roots) in the ancient Celtic world. Sounding a bit more like the Old World than the New at times, it’s an incredible timeless track. The powerful all-female vocal blending helps to punctuate a complicated storyline.
“Red Rocking Chair” is potentially the best track on an awesome album. The female harmonies are particularly good. “Who will rock the cradle when you’re gone?” It’s a family-rooted song. The repetitive phrasing reminds listeners of the old fashioned roots country genres. This is absolutely traditional bluegrass. It doesn’t have the over the top flashy picking that a lot of bands seem to think is necessary today, but they capture the spirit of real music. This song in particular, about loneliness and responsibility, conjures images of corn whiskey and old fashioned Appalachia. It’s beautiful.
“Roving Davey” and “Cora Belle” both drive home the characteristic fiddle playing that comes to define Run Boy Run. They also have beautiful female-lead vocals. “Little Girl” has a bit more of The Staves vibe to it. The vocal harmonies are, again, stunning. But what made the song particularly interesting is the parental father-daughter relationship. It really embodies a drama in the piece, especially with its orchestral quality in the middle. It shows that this band is not merely rehashing Appalachian classics, but brings its own artistic vision to the work.
The track “Down in the Willow Garden” is another of the characteristic songs on the album. It does a great job of embodying past and present. “Lucinda Jones/Cherokee Trail” has a darker tone to it. The harmonies are no less intricate, but the crafting of the track is delicate in its own right. Focusing on a seemingly fictional character, a pioneering woman Lucinda Jones, the track tells a pseudo-historic story of the 19th century. It’s an interesting connection with the musical structure of much of the album.
The final track, “In the Tea Garden” is simple, but no less beautiful than several of the other tracks on the album. It all comes together to form a delightful album that will be sure to garner a lot of fans of traditional music. While it doesn’t fit the new folk revival necessarily, it still captures an arcane music style with a fresh and exciting interpretation. It’s a joy to hear these voices blend and strings played with such instrumental acumen.
This album is a must-buy for fans of traditional Americana, fiddle-music, or old-time Appalachian music.