Live music has heart, and it has soul. No level of individual tracking in recording studios can ever match the type of energy that can be captured while a full band is playing together as one solidified unit in time. The subtle nuances [and even "mess-ups"] in live performances are what make tracks authentic. These small intricacies let listeners know that we aren't robots or artificial music machines; we are real people playing real music - for you.
I am excited to be reviewing The Jakob's Ferry Stragglers' new album, The Straggle Is Live, because it's, well, live! I am currently in the middle of producing a live album myself, so I feel a deep sense of respect for other musicians who are doing the same. Check 'em out!
The Jakob's Ferry Stragglers began in 2014 [according to their Facebook page]. They are currently based out of Pittsburgh, PA. The group consists of Libby Eddy on Fiddle/Vocals, Gary Antol on Guitar/Vocals, Ray Bruckman on Mandolin/Vocals, Niko Kreider on Upright Bass/Vocals, and Jody Mosser on Dobro/Vocals.
From JakobsFerry.com: "The Straggle Is Live started with an idea to capture the animated onstage energy of the band, in a controlled studio environment. It’s not often that a recorded bluegrass album truly matches the sights and sounds of seeing the talent live in-person. The team took this task to heart, and has produced an outcome where the at-home listener can truly understand what it means to be at a live Jakob’s Ferry Stragglers show."
The production quality on these tracks? Great. In all honesty, had I not been told that this was a live album, I would not have known. I mean this in the best way. The mixing is well done and sounds fantastic running through a solid pair of headphones. The L + R panning is done in a way wherein which the listener feels enveloped in the band. This is one of the biggest keys to good post-production. Adequate panning gives the music depth and makes listening a blast!
"Don't Go Across the Ocean" is one of my personal favorites on the record. This song is a lovely evening pick-me-up and makes me want to go out dancing with neighbors and friends. It is a bright and happy instrumental. I love the audible little, "thank you" from Libby Eddy at the end of the song. Again, little quirks like this = a perk of live performance.
I like the transition from "Don't Go Across the Ocean" into "White Lightning Road." There is contrast between the two.
"Beaumont Butler Blues" is for all of you bass-lovers out there [myself included]. There is a
small bass intro/feature at the beginning. The lyrics on this track might be the most fun on the entire album. I like the vocal duet work. I hear a lot of harmonies in bands like this, but not simple doubling like The Jakob's Ferry Stragglers does in this tune; I dig it.
There's a cheerful mandolin solo by Ray Bruckman beginning at 0:54, so if you're a fan of the mandolin, try this song on for size. Overall, the instrumental sections of this song remind me of something that one might hear on the "Toy Story" soundtrack [in an excellent way]. That music is iconic!
My favorite fiddle riff is heard in Track #5 ["Mannington #9"]. I made the signature "this is good" musician's face [you all know what I'm talking about] while listening to Libby Eddy's fiddle work on this one - very catchy and done in a classy, tasteful way.
If you want a song that will touch your heartstrings, then "Things Take Time" is for you. It's a beautiful song and gave me chills. I love the bass work, the fiddle work, the dobro slides, the guitar, the lyrics, the mandolin, the crescendos and decrescendos, the push and pull on the emotions... all of it. Well done. *claps*
Everyone loves some good acoustic guitar, so I was glad that The Jakob's Ferry Stragglers chose to end their album with "I Know You Rider." That intro really pulled me in. I'm a fan of the harmonies in this one; they're very well done. This is the longest song on the album, and it makes for the perfect "jam session." "I Know You Rider" would be so fun to see and hear in person! We really get to listen to the band members "let loose" in terms of solos. I wonder if these were primarily improvised, or if they were prewritten [at least to an extent]. [For all of you close listeners out there, tune into 4:19. Ray Bruckman throws in a groovy little "quote" from a well-known melody.]
I commend this band for pushing out 15 tracks on this album. In looking at their Spotify page, I can see that they have a fairly large discography already. Most indie and unsigned artists have yet to achieve the amount of recorded music that these folks have released. They truly invest in their own art. Bravo! That's dedication.
In all honesty, this seems like a really fun, family-type of band to be a part of! Plus, they're stellar musicians. What is your favorite song on The Straggle Is Live and why? Comment below!
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