Posted on: November 5, 2020 Posted by: Kim Muncie Comments: 0

Gentle and capable of inspiring great warmth within the listener in “You Made the Break.” Churning up a storm the size of Tennessee in “Turkey in the Straw.” Blanketing us with a groove no true ‘grass fan could ever resist in the title track of Banjo Player’s Blues much like as they would in the equally nimble “Helen.” Both steeped in balladry for “Dear God” and lit up with a vitality that only someone like the unstoppable Jesse McReynolds is able to ignite, the strings are definitely a main component of the majestic treasure that is to be found in High Fidelity’s Banjo Player’s Blues, but if you think they’re the only powerful element in this effort, you’re in for quite the surprise when you sit down to hear this 13-song hit. High Fidelity laid down some incredible foundations in their debut two years ago, but in the time that has gone by, this chipper (but evocatively self-aware) group of players find us eager for some top notch bluegrass in 2020, and from the looks of the past season’s output, it couldn’t have arrived at a more convenient (and well-timed) moment. 


The music video for “Tears of Regret” spotlights the collaboration between the band and Jess McReynolds more than it introduces us to anything – or any specific element of their artistry – we didn’t already know about High Fidelity, but that’s what makes it such an unabashedly refreshing document. Overall, the tracklist of Banjo Player’s Blues is one that seems to have been built on the concept of fluidity above all else, and with regards to the pacing,

“Take My Ring from Your Finger” helps to ease into the conclusion that wouldn’t have felt nearly as cathartic were it not preceded with tunes like “Feudin’ Banjos” or the supple “His Charming Love.” I can only imagine how “Got a Little Light” or its racehorse of a challenger in “The South Bound Train” would sound on the stage for the time being, but with any luck, I’ll have the chance to hear them in person for myself a lot sooner than later. 


I can’t speak for all of the critics in the American underground this November, but for what I look for in bluegrass and Americana, High Fidelity’s Banjo Player’s Blues is absolutely a must-have for fans of either genre this fall. It’s definitely one of the only records I’ve heard, regardless of stylization, to have immediately begged second and third spins on my stereo right out of the box, and although this is a band that still has some ground to cover in the studio aesthetically, I think it’s a good thing that they haven’t tried to get too overambitious with their work thus far. They’ve got a fire in their sound I would love to see cultivated a bit more than it already has been, and with the discipline of a player like Jesse McReynolds in their outer circle, I have a feeling we should expect great things from their future original recordings as well. 

 Kim Muncie

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