Reviewed by Henry L. Carrigan Jr.
Joining the long and storied tradition of bluegrass family bands from the Carter Family to The Whites, the southern Illinois-based Bankesters deliver powerful harmonies woven around shimmering instrumental power. Mom and Dad, Phil and Dorene, provide the foundation with their smooth rhythm guitars while Emily, the 2013 IBMA Momentum Vocalist of the Year, weaves in fiddle and claw hammer banjo, Alysha skitters in on the mandolin and Melissa thumps the upright bass; brother-in-law Kyle Triplett plays banjo, guitar and tenor guitar, and producer Alison Brown brought in guests Sierra Hull, Kenny Malone, Rob Ickes and Josh Williams, adding to the full wave of sound that washes over anyone who listens to the Bankesters' label debut.
With driving mandolin and soaring harmonies, Emily, Alysha, and Melissa capture the urgency of making the most of time to make the most of love in Time and Love. Brown contributes guitar and Larry Atamanuik plays percussion on the gospel-inflected Found, a song written for This Able Veteran, an organization that returns hope to injured veterans and their families by providing them with service dogs. The song's lyrics ring out a message of redemption and rescue: "even though I've walked through the valley of the shadow/somehow I'm not layin' in the ground/lonely and abandoned you restored my needy soul/taking what was lost and now I'm found."
Every member of the band takes an instrumental turn on the Jon Weisberger and Nora Jane Struthers-penned Storms, a driving and affecting song about the strength that togetherness brings in the face of adversity: "let the cold winds howl at dawn...it won't matter if the sun hides from our sight...side by side we'll stand our ground...just as long as we're together we're all right." With playful percussion by Kenny Malone, the band brings life to Cups (When I'm Gone), a song made famous in the movie "Pitch Perfect," but whose original copyright belongs to AP Carter for the song originally titled Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone?..
With their moving harmonies weaving around and above their shimmering instrumentals, The Bankesters blow a fresh breeze into the bluegrass world.