The Boxcars

The Boxcars

Mountain Home, 2010

REVIEW BY: Curtis Jones


With their debut in 2010, The Boxcars were greeted as one of the most exciting things to hit the bluegrass scene in quite some time. The group consists of bluegrass veterans like Adam Steffey, John Bowman, and Ron Stewart, who have been around the block quite a few times in the genre.  Two former members of Blue Moon Rising, Harold Nixon and Keith Garrett, round out the group.  Their eponymous first album proves that a new band can stick closely to the bluegrass tradition and still produce a fresh sound.  And while some songs veer to the more progressive end of bluegrass music, the subject matter is steeped in traditional themes. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The Boxcars set out to prove their worth at the outset. The opening track, "December 13th" is a progressive, banjo driven song with a haunting story that is a spin on the old murder ballad.  It is a great way to introduce the bands musicality with virtuosic solos all around. "Old Henry Hill" is another progressive track that holds firmly to a typical bluegrass/country theme of a woman leaving a man after one too many infractions and is one of the catchiest melodies on the disc. "I've Been Waiting" has the melodic structure of an Alison Krauss and Union Station hit and contains some beautifully understated playing from Adam Steffey's mandolin.

The Boxcars checks the boxes with "I Went Back Home Today" And "Log Cabin In The Lane," which are typical bluegrass songs about the old home place. But the band’s approach to these common themes is not stale.  They even pay tribute to bluegrass's musical cousin, honky-tonk, with "Never Played the Opry," which is a beautiful song about a failed dream.

There are no failed dreams with this first album from The Boxcars.  So far they have made it rain.  In 2001, they took home four International Bluegrass Music Association awards (think of those as the bluegrass Grammy Awards), including Emerging Artist Of The Year, Instrumental Group Of The Year, Ron Stewart picking up the Banjo Player Of The Year award, and Adam Steffey receiving the Mandolin Player Of The Year honor.  The Boxcars' banjo driven sound is indeed exciting. And their impeccable harmonies and the great melodic mandolin and fiddle fills that lay sweetly in the mix are exactly what a lot of lesser bands miss in their execution. Acoustic music is an unforgiving form, and many bands that come together lack this innate ability to fill the cracks with sonic flares along the way. The Boxcars ability to fit so smoothly into the bluegrass tradition and display excellent musical craftsmanship leaves their fans wanting more.

Rating: B+

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