Friday, July 30, 2010

Trampled By Turtles Makes Bluegrass Cool

Trampled By TurtlesWhen most people think of bluegrass, they tend to think of older tracks and country. But one Duluth, Minnesota-based band, Trampled by Turtles, has changed all that with the release of an album that some people categorize as bluegrass thrash.

Palomino, which is the band's newest release, takes a sweeping departure from being a sub-genre of country and toward something better described as post-punk folk music.

Even more surprising, what some bands are struggling to do this year, Trampled by Turtles seems to do so effortlessly (without the benefit of a drummer) — add ferocity to match the mood. And while some critics are hesitant to call it a departure, I can't help but attribute their call to one interview when the band said they were simply trying to capture their live performances.

While that may be true, introducing someone to the band with the hit bluegrass crossover Wait So Long will leave a very different impression than listening to their earlier work. The energy delivered by Dave Simonett (vocals, guitar), Tim Saxhung (bass), Dave Carroll (banjo) Erik Berry (mandolin), and Ryan Young (fiddle) in this and other songs excites.

Wait So Long isn't the only track to deliver. Victory, It's A War, Feet and Bones, and Gasoline all have plenty of appeal for a bigger audience while giving fans something to smile about with the balance. Those songs not mentioned are just as strong, with more traditional bluegrass and country undercurrents.

Perhaps the Minneapolis-area City Pages said it best when they wrote "one of very few bands in America that are hipster-approved but could heave a room of strangers into a hoedown at any time…”

Except it no longer needs to be a hoedown. They can headline anywhere or open for anyone. Since falling in together in 2003, they've opened for bands as diverse as Cracker, Camper Van Beethoven, and Billy Joe Shaver without losing their taste for pizza on Fridays.

The credit belongs to their good nature, the songwriting stylings of Simonett, and the tenacious skill sets of a five-man string band. There is something here and it just keeps getting better.

Palomino by Trampled By Turtles Hits With A 5.6 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

Do keep in mind the Liquid [Hip] scale is different, more akin to shaking ground than traditional score scales. Trampled By Turtles may find some mainstream movement with many of their laments and up-tempo ballads, but the bluegrass sound will be new enough to some people that it may take more of the same to shatter stereotypes.

What makes Palomino stand out is exactly what you'll find in some newly discovered fan reviews. You don't have to be a "one genre fan to appreciate the frantic pace that makes you want to play a bass, fiddle, banjo, or mandolin."

iTunes lists Palomino under rock and indie to broaden their horizons. On Amazon, you can find Palomino in country, folk, pop, and rock with a choice of CD or MP3s. And if you happen to do a quick search, you'll even find vinyl.
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