Trout Steak Revival won the Telluride Bluegrass Festival Band Competition in 2014, and "Spirit to the Sea" makes it easy to understand why. The Colorado quintet combines excellent musicianship and a multitude of lead singers to some wildly creative original tunes. The band definitely takes some creative license with the term "bluegrass," as this could easily be considered a folk or Americana album.
Trout Steak Revival's musicians prove their worth. The emphasis isn't on individual solos as much as it is the combination of instruments joining together in a melodic and lovely sound. Bevin Foley (fiddle), Steve Foltz (mandolin, guitar), Casey Houlihan (bass), Will Koster (Dobro, guitar) and Travis McNamara (banjo) all get their licks in, but the real "wow" moments come from the fiddle, banjo or other instruments playing together in perfect unison. As vocalists, everyone sings their parts very well. As the only female vocalist, Foley stands out the most; her performance on "Side of the Road" is about as close to a traditional bluegrass song as the band gets.
The songwriting is the point of differentiation between Trout Steak Revival and its contemporaries. With lyrics that frequently refer to natural elements, the many of the songs can best be described as "trippy." Check out these lyrics on "Ocean Lady": "Down where the water turns to black/Deeper than the dark part of the past/An anchor would have never touched the ground/Living up and never looking down."
Clearly, we're a long way removed from singing about the hills of old Kentucky. Still, the combination of words and music makes for a compelling total package. "They Sang to Us" is a gorgeous waltz, while "No Sweat" and "Last Chance" are upbeat barn-burners. Starting with the band's very name, there is little that's conventional about Trout Steak Revival. There's nothing wrong with something a little out of the ordinary when it's done this well.