Blue Ruin consists of 12 selections composed and performed by the Colorado based group, Head for the Hills, including 10 vocal cuts and 2 instrumentals.
The opening cut, Take Me Back, is reminiscent of an early Country Gazette-style offering, particularly with respect to the rhythm style and vocal arrangement.
Though there’s no banjo on this cut, it would otherwise suggest that a regimen of modern Bluegrass fare might be forthcoming. However, with the opening of the next cut, Never Does, you know you’ve stumbled onto something exotic indeed.
Never Does’ feel is more like modern Indie/Grunge merged with Bohemian Gypsy music, complete with train-whistle style background harmonies.
That said, Never Does is brilliantly seductive, as is the title cut, Blue Ruin, which starts out harmless enough, with guitar rhythm and solo vocals, followed by nice violin and guitar fills. But, just when you thought you were safe, the delicate tintinnabulations of electric piano start sneaking out from your speakers to remind you (in case you momentarily lapsed into a coma) this is not your grandpa’s string music.
Priscilla the Chinchilla is one of two instrumentals that serve to establish to the listener that these guys are serious musicians. Michael Chappell’s mandolin chops are especially strong, and obvious, on this cut, as is his taste in note choices and rhythms.
One of my favorite cuts is Wish You Well, with its persistent undercurrent of swelling jazz lines and chopped rhythms complimenting the vocals. It also has a few of those magical moments when you’re sure you’re hearing something both unique and cool.
If Dependency Co.’s clever lyrics aren’t enough to reassure you that you’re in uncharted string-music waters, the trumpet solo should do it. That effort, for the record, comes off really well. Overall, Head for the Hill’s ability to tastefully integrate horns into their recordings is a testament to their very capable production skills.
Another of my favorites from this project is Bosun Ridley, a dark tale of maritime tragedies. Joe Lessard’s violin layered with Matt Loewen’s bass is a particularly effective haunting touch, as are some of the special effects, all tastefully rendered.
Read the rest of this interview at Prescription Bluegrass's website: http://prescriptionbluegrassreviews.blogspot.com/2013/06/prescription-bluegrass-reviews-head-for.html