Every once and a while, we get a band that’s making music they have no business making and just absolutely killing it. Think Mumford and Sons. Marcus and the boys have no business being as good at traditional American folk music as they are, but we’re all better for it. Here we have The Stillwater Hobos, four guys from Asheville, NC that are making some awesome Irish-American folk music. But that’s the thing. These guys have no business sounding as awesomely Irish and authentic as they do. You’d be hard pressed to guess they were from NC and not Dublin.
Right off the bat, My Love, She’s in America sounds Irish. They start with one of the most traditional and recognizable Irish songs, “The Hills of Connemara.” It’s an incredible version, one that I would kill to see live. You can feel the joy and authenticity oozing from this track. It’s a brilliant starting point. It’s followed closely by “The Night Visiting Song”, an upbeat and joyful song about a lover’s visit in the middle of the night. It’s a romantic song, one that’s highlighted by incredible imagery and beautiful lyricism.
The title track is a standout. It’s a slow, atmospheric song, one that feels the lament as much as it professes it. It’s a real talent to be able to match tone and lyrics as well as The Stillwater Hobos do, and they seem to do it effortlessly. This song represents the best combination of lyrics, music, emotion, and tone that I’ve heard in bluegrass in years. To that end, there are songs on this album that would make the guys of Old Crow Medicine Show jealous. “Saint Therese” and “The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde” (an awesome Irish take on a classic American tale) are both examples of 4 musicians that are in perfect harmony.
While The Stillwater Hobos will certainly not be for everyone, I have a feeling that they’ll appeal to some fans who haven’t been traditional bluegrass fans. There’s a quality and joy here that is something that’s difficult to find and one that’s impossible to miss. My Love, She’s in America is a perfect example of why we’re better off for having an expanded music scene. Without bands like this for us to get excited about, we stick to old records and familiar favorites. Make room for The Stillwater Hobos in your collection and leave some space for what I imagine will be another 10 albums of equal quality.