"Stars and Satellites," the latest offering from Duluth, Minn.'s Trampled by Turtles, marks a literal change of pace for a group known for technically proficient neo-bluegrass jams at break-neck speeds. By slowing things down a bit, the band manages to produce its most complete and compelling artistic statement to date.
Although the band hasn't completely forsaken high-energy jams on this new album - songs like the ultra catchy pop-grass blitz of Sorry and the hard-charging Risk still manage to take your breath away - the spaces in-between shine the brightest.
The mood set by the opening statement Midnight on the Interstate is contemplative and introspective, much like late night drives on lonely stretches of highway between gigs. This theme is carried throughout as tracks like High Water, Widower's Heart and Beautiful quietly impress with both their simplicity and emotional depth.
The jubilant instrumental Don't Look Down is the most traditional track on the album, and the The Calm and the Crying Wind is notable for its loose group sing-along chorus, but the real highlight on this set is the lead single Alone. This memorable ballad showcases singer/guitarist Dave Simonett's vocals while the group steadily builds tension that plateau's in the song's waning seconds.
Trampled by Turtles seems to have mellowed a bit here, and that isn't necessarily a bad thing. The band can clearly still pick circles around other acts when it chooses to, but it can also impress by taking the foot off of the gas pedal and exploring new areas.