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Horseshoes & Hand Grenades

The Ode – 2018 (Tape Time)

Reviewed by Donald Teplyske

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CDs by Horseshoes & Hand Grenades

Produced by Trampled By Turtles' frontman Dave Simonett and released on the new imprint of The Infamous Stringdusters, after three albums and seven years of hardcore touring, the latest from Horseshoes & Hand Grenades doesn't necessary contain surprises. Rather, the album confirms their leading place within the expansive 'big tent' of contemporary grassicana, acoustiblue, jam grass or whatever we are calling it this month.

From the uplifting opening title track through to the closing piano rich "Eat The Cake," the Wisconsin-rooted group unleashes a concise and foundational testament of what it means to be an independent bluegrass-based band working well outside the industry mainstream.

Several tracks have solid bluegrass at their core ("River Time," "Foggy Halo," "AD/BC"), but there is consistently an element straining toward the edge of the music's confines, a yearning toward something that hasn't been previously experienced. This freshness and energy provides the 11 songs with an appreciated vitality that encourages repeated exploration. "Steer True" is an especially enlightening number, containing a retrained interlude that focuses the intensity of the song's message. Similarly, the title track is a song for the ages: an affirming ode to independent thought and action.

Other songs ("Home Again," "American Dream," "Millenial [sic] Girl") more clearly explore acoustic music beyond the realm typically encountered within bluegrass. While Horseshoes and Hand Grenades is a relatively youthful collective, listeners of Acoustic Syndicate, Great American Taxi, Leftover Salmon and their ilk will find much to appreciate across this 40-minute exploration of modern roots music.