Love Has Wheels

The Bankesters

Compass, 2013

http://www.bankesters.com

REVIEW BY: Curtis Jones

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/12/2014

Like many other groups in bluegrass music, the Bankesters is a family affair. Mom and dad guitarists, Phil and Dorene, are joined by their daughters and son-in-law, who front the band. They have garnered greater publicity since joining Nashville-based Compass Records, which also houses other powerhouse grassers like Dale Ann Bradley, Claire Lynch and Larry Stephenson, and they build their sound around the kind of harmonies that only a family can create.

I have a hard time deciding how to feel about Love Has Wheels. At once, it feels forced, like the band is trying too hard to come up with complex harmony and complicated lyrics. But at the same time, there are real gems that show true instrumental talent and solid vocalization.  my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

First, the low points. Sadly the title track falls into this category and it a good example of “too much.” The sisters try to perform skipping three part harmonies that are out of range of the vocalists and are grating. Not a good starting point. “Reluctant Daughter” is an attempt at a somewhat sacred tune, but the lyrics feel contrived, like an idea that was forced into a song but doesn’t quite sit there comfortably. “Guardian Angel” suffers from the same deficiency, but only to a slightly lesser degree.

Thankfully, there are high points as well. “Cups (When I’m Gone)” is an excellent bluegrass cover of a song often called “Cups” or “The Cup Song” by teenagers who saw the movie Pitch Perfect. What many may not realize is that “When I'm Gone” is an old Carter Family tune, which enjoys the rehab 82 years after its original recording. “Love Don’t Give Up On Me Now” is a soothing love song in which the family harmonies are perfect. “One Room” is a solid gospel tune that holds together far better than the “Reluctant Daughter” idea. A great melody glides easily over a bouncing rhythm as it paints a beautiful homely picture of the one room church house, both rustic and bright. “She’s A Stranger” is a masterpiece of songwriting, which will make you cry as it recounts the devastation of Alzheimer’s disease not only on the affected mind, but on the family as well.

At all points, the Bankesters proves that they can both sing and play masterfully. Yet the lows on Love Has Wheels do a lot to drag down the whole product. There is a lot here to like, and much to look forward to from the group in the future, but tighter song selection would have produced a masterful album.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


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