Rye and Fairy Tales is a bluegrass duo comprised of Jared Albright and Ben Plotnick. They are two extremely talented young men that have a bluegrass style that connects traditional and new grass in wonderful ways. Their vocals, string performance, and overall musical composition is enough to make us take notice. This is a delightful debut album.
The album at times smacks of what I’d call “good” Nickel Creek songs, particularly the less aggressive, more melodic tunes. That’s high praise in the world of new grass. The combination of sweet melodies with great vocal harmonies (and sometimes even sounding like Chris Thile), makes for a very familiar sound.
While the opener “Little Bird” is quite good, I want to jump right to “Play It Again,” an eloquent bluegrass song, “you need a savior but nobody came… dry your eyes girl… play it again.” The song features a message of perseverance amid trial. Regardless of our life station, this message is one worth embracing. The soft mandolin break about two thirds through the song makes it really work. “Girl cry but don’t stop” has a nice dramatic pause that helps the song’s overall effect. It’s a carefully constructed song that puts a smile on my face every time. Success.
The banjo plucking at the beginning of “Wild Fire” shows that these gents are proficient on the gamut of bluegrass instrumentation. It’s a little bit more of an upbeat bluegrass tune than the previous song, but is nevertheless a good tune. It is fundamentally a breakup song about a former relationship that seems not to have worked out. Lost love… always good inspiration. “It’ll burn your soul to the ground.” So true.
“Love has left you on your own, never to return…” begins the lamenting, terribly melancholic song “Stay With Me” seems like the kind of sad song that belongs on an album titled Rye and Fairy Tales. The vocal change mid song mimics traditional bluegrass as it shifts from a solo beginning to a full band choral construction. It all comes together for a shift from lost love to hopeful love. The “oohs” for the bridge make this one of the standout tracks on the album, for sure.
“The Red Rose” sounds like it’s straight from the 19th century. It smacks of traditional Appalachian, Scotch-Irish inspired music. What really seems to make the song work is a combination of rhythmic stomping/clapping with a bluegrass fiddle. Even the structure of the harmonies reflects something distinctly “Old World” in all the right ways. It seems these two gents could make a whole album like this fit for the festival circuit that would keep us all stomping and happy.
“Sorry” is one of the songs on the album that falls into the new grass category. It’s amazing how these guys can use the same instruments to make such a variety of beautiful music. It’s one of those apologetic (but not really) songs that serves as a memory of a past relationship. These guys have a lot of tough emotions that they’ve wrestled with throughout this album. “Sorry I’m not enough for you… sorry we cannot undo…” That’s just life right there. Excellent.
The track “Green Eyes” is a pretty straightforward love song. “Some You Win,” the following song, again has a hint of Nickel Creek to it. Listerners half expect to hear Sara Watkins harmonizing over the top on this one. “Some you win and some you lose.” This appears to be another philosophical coping tune for a previous relationship. The song features the beautiful female harmonies of an unnamed vocalist. I’m here to tell you gentlemen that whoever she is… you need to get her in the group. She really makes the song work. In terms of performance, it might be the best song on an otherwise top-to-bottom great album.
“You Stole the Chords From My Guitar” is easily the most beautifully-written song on the album. If I had to pick a “single” from this album, it’s definitely this song. “You stole the chords from my guitar… you took the lyrics from my head and made a rhyme with them instead.” It’s not just clever, it coveys a great message. “I had the perfect melody. You stole it all away from me.” It’s about a broken relationship that has taken everything from the song’s writer. It’s a pitiful lament, in one sense, but it’s so deeply rooted in a reality that anyone with a broken heart can understand. It’s got an epic element to it as it crescendos into a powerful melody, nearly a ballad. Honestly, it has all the elements of a big time hit.
This group deserves a shot at the big time. These are the type of talented people that deserve the exposure that this blog serves to create. Please listen and enjoy this band. Then do yourself a favor and share them with friends. While I have them tagged as “bluegrass” they could go far in renewing the world’s faith in real country music. There’s something inherently important in the clear traditional roots that Rye and Fairy Tales clearly appreciate, replicate, and perpetuate. Bravo, gentlemen.
*PS – Bonus points for some of the best album art I’ve seen in a long time. Just beautiful!