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Snyder Family Band

Wherever I Wander – 2015 (Mountain Home)

Reviewed by Donald Teplyske

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Bluegrass and its associated branches and brambles certainly have an affinity toward family groups. From the Stonemans and the Lewises through to the Vincent, Isaacs and Cherryholmes clans, on through to the Bankesters, Robertsons and 347 regional Missouri, there has never been a shortage of families performing on stage together.

The Snyder Family Band has been recording together as a trio since 2010 while the entire family frequently appears together -augmented by mom and little brother - on stage; "Wherever I Wander" is their fourth recording. With father Bud handling the bass, much like Messrs. Thile and Cherryholmes back in the day, the stars of this show are siblings Samantha and Zeb Snyder.

Both offer up isolated bits of mandolin, but their primary instruments are fiddle (Samantha) and guitar (Zeb). Samantha proves herself a versatile player throughout; "New River Rapids" showcases her range as the fiddling elements combine long, mournful bow strokes and jumpy, frantic strikes. Zeb's mandolin is given a great workout on this same number. There is no doubting their instrumental capabilities.

Elements of bluegrass, folk and rock come together in the Snyder Family Band's southern, new age- Americana mix. This mostly acoustic album is evenly split between instrumental and vocal tracks with Samantha taking the majority of the leads. She possesses a pleasing, unpretentious voice, one that affords promise; one recalls thinking similarly about Sara Watkins a lifetime ago.

Zeb seems to favor the blues a bit and the associated trappings are found throughout, and he even pulls out his electric guitar in a couple places. Most successful is his closing acoustic take of Dickie Betts' "Highway Call." He is a confident player and isn't shy to take a song on a journey of his choosing.

Most of the instrumentals are of the flighty, expansive type favored a generation before by the Watkins siblings and Chris Thile in Nickel Creek: lots of notes, plenty of interesting progressions and quite listenable in the moment, but ultimately not terribly persuasive or memorable.

Encountered singularly, each song is quite enjoyable. Taken as an album in its entirety, things tend to blur together a bit, and even get a little sleepy. "Wherever I Wander" is a great set for those so inclined to include on digital shuffle devices.