Reviewed by Henry L. Carrigan Jr.
Colebrook Road is certainly enjoying themselves these days, and "On Time" reflects the palpable joy the band brings to their music. The Harrisburg, Pa.-based band delivers a group of songs that demonstrates their mastery at moving from the skittering, cavorting pace of a good bluegrass romp ("Better Off Today") to a reflective harmony-fueled ballad ("Evening Rain"). Guitarist and lead vocalist Jesse Eisenbise wrote or co-wrote seven of these songs, fiddler Joe McAnulty added one, and the group covers two other songs, one co-written by Paul Simon ("Boy in the Bubble"). Banjoist Mark Rast, upright bassist Jeff Campbell and mandolinist Wade Yankey join Eisenbise and McAnulty to round out Colebrook Road.
The opening title track skitters off with dueling guitar and mandolin runs, a jet-fueled bluegrass romp whose rapid-fire time signature evokes the frenetic rush always to keep up with the demands of being on time. A plaintive fiddle cry kicks off the minor-chord raucous ramble "The Caged Bird," which floats along on the band's crystalline harmony and Rast's rapid-fire banjo runs and Eisenbise's lead runs. The haunting "Velvet" blends the sonic echoes of rock with the languorous rhythms of bluegrass to deliver a tune that might feel just right on a lonely Saturday night. Eisenbise's fluid guitar opens the raw, poignant, and touching "To Love Again," while Rast's rollicking banjo leads off the careening romp "Farther on Down the Line." Old time balladry meets modern bluegrass in "Cora Leigh," while the album closes with the driving, never-let-up rhythms of "Better Off Today."
Colebrook Road's instrumental versatility, their close harmony vocals and their inventive songwriting deliver a batch of songs that preserve the joys of bluegrass while at the same time using that music as a springboard for innovation. "On Time" richly rewards us with the variety and beauty of its music.