Missoula’s Lochwood has kicked out razor-sharp traditional bluegrass music since 2014, and their debut album showcases it. It’s chock-full of classic nuggets from greats like Ralph Stanley, Kenny Baker, and the Louvin Brothers, plus two original pieces, all performed superbly by the five long-time pickers. John Parker, upright bass and vocals, Steve Taft, banjo, Chad Fadely, mandolin, Taylor Buckley, fiddle and vocals, and Richie Reinholdt, guitar and vocals, complete this excellent ensemble.
Newest member Buckley, a three-time Montana state fiddle champion, plays with such a silky style that the instrument seems almost an extension of his body. The other fellas aren’t too shabby either. Taft honed his spirited banjo muscles in the Seattle music scene, and Reinholdt, Fadely and Parker have been staples of area bands for years. Reinholdt contributes sinuous flatpick work and Fadely, lustrous mandolin pickin’. His percussive backbeats go hand-in-hand with Parker’s vibrant bass chops to propel the rhythm, too.
It’s refreshing to hear bluegrass played the way it’s meant to be: stripped of all the relentless jam-band shenanigans that populate bluegrass these days. Lockwood’s songs are arranged simply and cleanly, and verses are interspersed with inventive solos of improvised hot licks.
Tight two- and three-part harmonies by Parker, Reinholdt and Buckley highlight the “high lonesome sound” that is such a distinctive feature of the genre as well.
Buckley belts out “Moonshiner” in his mid-range tenor voice; here the breaks feature the melody repeated by each instrument, oftentimes in unison, in the old-time Appalachian style. Reinholdt zips off a nifty guitar refrain, then joins the banjo in a cascading riff down the scale before the fiddle soars off on a break. Cool!
Parker sings Robbie Fulks’s “Long I Ride” in his burly baritone, digging deep while singing the hook. Here again, the instruments play the melody in tandem after each verse.
Buckley and Fadely rip up the uptempo instrumental, “First Day in Town,” each playing the melody, then improvising on it, while Taft’s rolling, tasteful banjo motors along underneath. Taft shines on the title tune to boot. It’s an old-time bluegrass loper in a spooky minor key.
Reinholdt sings “The Old Swinging Bridge,” with its close three-part harmony, and croons his waltz, “Easy to See,” while Buckley sings tenor harmony. And Fadely presents his pretty instrumental, “Cold Snowy Morning,” where everybody gets a break, and harmony fiddle and mandolin shine at the end. Lochwood’s debut album is terrific and tune-worthy; give it a listen!
Visit the artists at facebook.com/lochwoodbluegrass.
– Mariss McTucker