The Roys–honest-to-goodness bluegrass

    I bonded with The Roys pretty immediately.  My family on my mother’s side is a bunch of proud, true Scottish Roys.  I’m right with them.  I have the tattoo of my family crest, tartan, thistles.  We’ve traced our lineage all the way back to Rob Roy himself.  So–I’m pretty sure that this Canada-raised brother-sister duo and I are long-lost cousins of some sort.  Even if Lee and Elaine Roy aren’t related to me and they don’t care about Scottish heritage or celebrate St. Andrew’s day–they’re awesome and they’re winning awards right and left and opening up for some big name country bands.  If you don’t like big name country bands (I don’t particularly)–don’t panic, you will probably still like these guys.  They’re quite bluegrass, talented songwriters, excellent musicians and vocalists.  “Gypsy Runaway Train” is their third album and presents some great original work along with some gorgeous reworked classics.


    The album opens with “You Can Count on My Love”.  I love it.  It has that gorgeously haunting honest-to-goodness bluegrass sound.  The perfectly twangy banjo, the emotive fiddle, and the story-telling voices.  I love Elaine’s voice in this song.  It’s real and rings true.  She handles the curves in the music smoothly and gracefully with the perfect amount of aggression to make it feel passionate.


    “Born With a Hammer in my Hand” was featured by “Blue Highway” on their self titled album released in 2000.  It’s the classic story of a hard-labor man who works steel with his hands.  I’ve always loved it because it references John Henry who I consider to be a staple of American culture just like bluegrass.  It’s fast.  The finger-picking is spot on.  Lee’s voice is perfect for this style of song.  The lyrics are believable in his voice. The harmonies are tight on the corners and round on the edges.  Elaine gives the perfect amount of emotion to Lee’s storytelling.


    The middle of the album takes a turn for the solemn, but uplifting.  “He Took Your Place” is a gorgeous hymn, “Workin’ on It” is about becoming a better person, and  “Enough for Me” is an original song about the joys of a simple life.  It’s a thankfulness song, the kind that really brings you a lot of joy to have rambling around the inside of your head.  


    “Ramblin’ Fever” is all about the wanderlust problem I have.  The problem where I can’t stay put for very long.  There’s no cure.  I’ve been in my current city for less than two years and am already itching to get on.  Not because I don’t love this city, just because I like moving on.  “Well, my hat don’t hang on the same nail too long.”  Instead of moving from Cleveland to Denver, this song brings up old school imagery of train hopping, walking along the highway, sitting beside the campfire at night with the whiskey bottle.  It’s beautiful.

    The album finishes up with the title track.  It’s autobiographical, a message from the musicians to their audience.  It’s a little raw and a lot of fun.  The instruments are moving fast, taking turns between the fiddle and the banjo.  “Gypsy Runaway Train” tells me a lot about how Lee and Elaine seem to see their own lives.  

    This is a sibling pair to watch out for.  They work wonderfully together and have a amazing family sound–like they were born to sing together.  The voices are perfectly suited to the music which is skillfully executed and gorgeously blended.  I love the way that the banjo and fiddle carry each song–but they are gorgeously supported by guitar and mandolin to make the sound complete.  They are growing in popularity quite rapidly for good reason.  This is good, quality, rooted bluegrass that isn’t trying to be anything else.  It’s beautiful.  Check them out at their website and maybe download their new album.  It will be worth your time and investment.

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