LONELY HEARTSTRING BAND
Though Deep Waters is the Lonely Heartstring Band’s debut album, it nonetheless feels deep, with a maturity and wisdom far beyond what one might expect from a first release by a relatively young band. Having come together officially only four years ago, the Lonely Heartstring Band has already been hailed by luminary Tony Trischka as having “carved out a fresh niche in modern bluegrass,” and similar accolades not often accorded to a debut outing.
The Lonely Heartstring Band, named in a tongue-in-cheek, tip-of-the-hat reference to one of their favorite albums, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, is a genuine musicians’ band, immediately appreciated by fellow-musicians who get their sound. That said, this is not esoteric or effete music intended for a select few, but has listenability that appeals to the bands already devoted following of fans and to music critics alike. Though their music is akin to the Punch Brothers, Alison Krauss, The Infamous String Dusters, or other folk-grass/ chamber-grass groups in the Americana world, this band is already well on its way to making a dynamic and distinctive sound all its own.
Though characterized by intricate, precise, even elegant arrangements, the Lonely Heartstring Band’s music still has all the joy and spontaneity of bluegrass or folkgrass at its finest, as exemplified in George Clements’s unique and sensitive, yet powerful, lead vocals, and their own extensive repertoire of originals. The Lonely Heartstring Band is comprised of the aforementioned George Clements on guitar and lead vocals, his identical twin brother Charles on bass and harmony vocals, Gabe Hirshfeld on banjo, Matt Witler on mandolin, and Patrick McGonigle on fiddle, rounding out the harmony vocals as well. Four of the five band members met while students at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. Gabe Hirshfeld, George, and Charles are all from New England, while Matt and Patrick are both from the west coast; California and Vancouver respectively.
The backgrounds of the individual band members, all outstanding on their respective instruments, and the approach they employ in making each song their own, make it no surprise that they are already producing such accomplished and fully-realized music as that found on Deep Waters. Speaking on the band’s dynamic, fiddle-player Patrick McGonigle notes that it’s interesting how varied and different each of them are in creating a song their own. Classically-trained Charles is often a total perfectionist, while George has a folkier and softer approach, both Gabe and Matt are more influenced by bluegrass, while Patrick himself is more drawn to improvisation and jam band expressiveness. Yet somehow it all fits together, and not only makes musical sense, but seamlessly blends into something all their own.
McGonigle further explains that the band’s approach to a new song, typically starting with just words, chords, and melody, transforms from the original sound into something very different, just from the process of working together. Perhaps from their years at Berklee, perhaps from common musical influences and tastes, and certainly from having played music together and having travelled together, the Lonely Heartstring boys, with their shared musical vocabulary, are forging a style that is simultaneously both stimulating and listenable, new and fresh. Despite their varied influences, from classical to folk to traditional bluegrass, and because of them, too, the Lonely Heartstring Band never sounds like a clash of competing musical elements but rather has a rich and fully-formed sound that respects and incorporates the full range of what each individual musician brings to the group. Like all fine bands, each player stands out, but the band’s music is clearly more than just the sum of its individual parts.
The songs on Deep Waters are all road-tested fan favorites from folk festivals, clubs, and concert halls, but will include a couple of surprise tunes as well. Fortunately, there are many more miles to travel for the Lonely Heartstring Band. They have given us a masterful debut that is a harbinger of much more great music to come!