The Rifters - The Enchanted World
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The Enchanted World (Howling Dog Records, 2023)

The Rifters

Reviewed by Jim Hynes

The Rifters are an acoustic-country trio based in New Mexico known for their infectious three-part harmonies and regionally steeped music. Formed in 2002 in Taos, which boasts the state's most creative music scene, members of two already popular bands, Jim Bradley and Don Richmond of Hired Hands, and Rod Taylor of the Rounders, joined forces as a trio. "This Enchanted World" is their seventh album, filled with 14 songs, 10 of which are originals or co-writes, many oriented toward western life, ranching or the majestic landscapes where they reside.

Taylor, a working cowboy himself for 40 years, delivers the authentic tribute to ranching life with the opener, "Circle," rendered with acoustic guitar, mandolin and Dobro in their acoustic sound which includes banjo, fiddle and lap steel on some tracks as well. The impressive vocal harmonies color "The Greatest Mystery" and the title track, inspired by the desert and high ranges where the band calls home. The banjo driven jaunty "The Perfect Dance" and the snappy "It's Caused You Lived" deal with coping with change in a calm, measured approach.

The Rifters appeared on Eliza Gilkyson's 2022 "Songs from the River Wind" and, having co-written "At the Foot of the Mountain" with Gilkyson and John Gorka, felt it appropriate to do their own version here, yet another ode to the mountainous region. This fondness for their area translates to an environmental message in "The Dollar Worth of Mother Earth,' a co-write with cowboy poet Waddie Mitchell. Some of these tunes have mundane and rather didactic lyrics, but the gorgeous harmonies compensate for that quibble, making every tune eminently listenable and gently comforting, even when singing about such a dark subject as suicide as they do in "The Rail."

Gilkyson joins in on harmony on "So Many Different Things" with guests Diamond Jim Richmond (Don's brother) on fiddle and Michael Hearne on lead guitar. Don Richmond's "Tres Pies" is a nod to his three-legged dog while standout love song "The Wonder of You" features Diamond Jim on pedal steel. The up tempo "Nothing Is Free" is from the Colorado duo Moors and McCumber with Bradley playing two basses. They color "That Lucky Old Sung" with their signature harmonies and close the album with John Hartford's "Gentle on My Mind" with Hot Rize banjoist Pete Wernick and Hearne again on lead guitar. Acoustic music doesn't get any better.

CDs by The Rifters

The Enchanted World, 2023

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