Fireside Collective - Elements
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Elements (Mountain Home, 2020)

Fireside Collective

Reviewed by Fred Frawley

Fireside Collective, a North Carolina bluegrass band draws from the deep well of bluegrass music, but cuts a new course. Joe Cicero (guitar); Alex Genova (banjo), Jesse Iaquinto (mandolin), Tommy Maher (resonator guitar) and Carson White (upright bass) comprise Fireside Collective. These guys are good. Maher, in particular, burns through his breaks and runs, nearly always met, punch for punch, by Iaquinto's chopping mando licks.

The lope and circuit runs of many of the songs (notably "Fast Train" and "She Was An Angel") call to mind the feel of the Infamous Stringdusters. It comes as no surprise, then, that Travis Book, the Stringdusters' exemplary bassist, is credited with producing.

There is a lot to like in "Elements." The songwriting is on point. The strongest cut, "Winding Road," is a real winner, and to drive home the point, there's a reprise of it in, which has a thick and bluesy texture. Fireside Collective knows how to emphasize its strengths, and Maher's work on the reprise enriches the listener's experience.

But, there's something afoot on "Elements" which could be endearing or just distracting. "Done Deal" is essentially a reworking of Old Crow's "Wagon Wheel" from the song structure to some of the imagery. This might well be done with intention (note the alliteration common in each of the song titles), but there's a fine line between paying homage and something else. The seed that this places tends to affect listening to other selections. "Bring It On Home" in this context sounds awfully familiar (Monroe's "Lonesome Midnight Waltz"?).

This is only a minor distraction. The vocals, mostly tenor, are remarkably strong and bring weight to the material, so that the tunes are well-delivered. Occasionally, the strength of some of the players exposes the shortcomings of others. Genova leans hard on the banjo trickle move so common these days. A little bit of that covers a lot of ground.

On balance, "Elements" is a very fine work which showcases the talents of the band. Bluegrass needs people expanding its existing patterns, and Fireside Collective shows that it's ready to move and deliver on its promise.

CDs by Fireside Collective

Across The Divide, 2022 Elements, 2020

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