Avocado Shakedown – Strungover
Youth and influence have done a lot for bluegrass music over the last
decade. With the help of a handful of luminaries, ranging from Sam Bush to
the Yonder Mountain String Band, the seeds of a newgrass have been sown
and are injecting the traditional genre with a forward-thinking approach and
Santa Cruz’s Strungover are messengers of the newgrass word, but while their
debut release, Avocado Shakedown, is a worthy introduction to this
soft-edged, progressive vibe of this California quintet, they still seem
hesitant to buy into the true spirit of the genre.
Jason Lampel (banjo), Jeremy Lampel (mandolin), Hugh Broughton (bass), Adam
Galblum (fiddle) and Michael Thurman (vocals, guitar) came together as
Strungover in 1999, and took to playing on the streets of their hometown.
Since then, they have left their streetside set-up for festival stages,
while continuing to cultivate their varied repertoire of
original compositions and traditional favorites. Avocado Shakedown is
photograph of the band thus far; an honest display of their songwriting and
"Grass Monkey" opens the album with a slow waltz feel, before shifting
gears in speed and tone and spotlights the interwoven string attacks of the
band. "Father’s Farewell" is bolstered by multipart harmonies and is pushed
outside of the band’s format with a guest appearance by Rob Ickes on
resophonic guitar. "Angeline Malone," a slow, sad song, offers another take
on the virtuosity of these players and features some of the most heartfelt
lyrics of the album.
But while Strungover is comfortable exchanging solos or crafting intriguing
chord progressions, their lyrics are often lost to the deftness of their
playing. While the burgeoning newgrass world has created a limitless format
for songwriting, offering 21st century views set to the pillars of the
bluegrass sound , even the most vivid of images seem lost in archaic, old
Avocado Shakedown is quite a collection though, and the playing
is often inspiring and easily digestible. It is their natural skill that
keeps their newgrass vision afloat and sailing toward their own new world.