Through struggle, strife, and an uncertain future, Canadian bluegrassers The Slocan Ramblers have persevered and laid it all on the line in their upcoming album, Up the Hill and Through the Fog, set for release this Friday June 10th.
Hailing from Toronto, the quartet is made up of Frank Evans (Banjo/Vocals), Adrian Gross (Mandolin), Darryl Poulsen (Guitar/Vocals) and Charles James (Bass/Vocals).
The Slocan Ramblers lay claim to accolades like the 2020 IBMA Momentum Band Of the Year Award, and a 2019 Juno Award Nomination. Despite exciting successes, the past few years have been rocky for “The Ramblers.” The pandemic halted the band’s growth, Poulsen and Gross both dealt with grief involving lost family members, and James needed to step back to spend more time at home. Their latest album, Up the Hill and Through the Fog, embraces these trials and tribulations, and is a testament to the group’s strength and resolve.
The new album produces imagery that captures the tumultuous years behind, while uplifting us with its kind, authentic sound for years ahead. There are no fancy bells and whistles on the album. The Slocan Ramblers have cut the fat off bluegrass to bring us earthly acoustic sounds, and laid over their brilliant instrumentation shines a warm, honest voice.
“I Don’t Know” is the first tune, and it is self-deprecating in the most endearing way. “Looking up at a girl / looking down at the world / I don’t know what she sees in me,” is the hook to summarize lines about how love has soft eyes. The songwriter beats himself up about how he can’t dance well, doesn’t have much money, and drinks too much, yet has an amazing woman by his side.
The following song, “You Said Goodbye,” is an immediate juxtaposition to the first. The instrumentation is rapid like an anxious heartbeat, and the lyrics spell a story about a loved one leaving in an instant. The beauty of The Slocan Ramblers is to speak in unadorned, authentic language, and the repeated line “I wish I could turn back time” captures the emotion of loss perfectly.
A lovely homage on the album is “A Mind with a Heart of Its Own,” which is a Tom Petty cover. The background is that the band sometimes needed to switch up the music from bluegrass during road trips, and they were always drawn to Petty’s free-flowing lyricism.
The track that perhaps stuck out the most is “Street Car Lullaby.” The song seems to magically blend a western style with bluegrass, and it induces a glowing feeling of acceptance for all of life’s difficulties.
To close the album, The Ramblers bring us “Bring Me Down Low.” This is a well-placed song about moving on, and the youthful instrumentals accompanying it bring about a feeling of empowerment. The Slocan Ramblers end Up The Hill and Through The Fog with a bang, as they put a bow on what they are capable of with their strings and deeply resonating lyrics- especially in the day and age we live in.
The album in its entirety will see the light of day this Friday.