In our first review since the end of our Summer hiatus, we’re looking at an album released at the end of July. Montana based bluegrass musicians Laney Lou and the Bird Dogs recorded their fourth studio album earlier this year and have produced a record full of Americana influences as well as virtuoso instrumentals. The five members if the band are Lena (Laney) Schiffer on guitar and vocals, Josh Moore on guitar and vocals, Brian Kassay on fiddle, harmonica, mandolin, and vocals, Matt Demarais on banjo and vocals and Ethan Demarais on bass.
Through the Smoke is a collection of songs that although imbued with the sound that Bird Dogs fans know and love, also have additional influences such as pop and rock. 2020 / 2021 have been years of personal and creative transformation for everyone, including song writers and as Laney says “The title, Through the Smoke, fits perfectly with the theme of change, rebirth, and resilience found in these songs – this album represents us in our most honest form.” Soaring harmonies and rapid-fire picking bring a modern authenticity to the album, reflecting this creativity; The melodically melancholy ‘Hi-Line‘ and the beautifully chilling ‘Alive‘ bookend the album, establishing the bluegrass vision with a breakneck speed from the off, returning to the same sound on ‘Alive’
My favourite track is ‘Count On You‘, a track that shows off Laney’s strong yet vulnerable vocals – they float smoothly over the frenetic rhythm underneath. Laney’s vocals are a strength throughout the eleven tracks, in particular on ‘Reeling‘, a pared back song that along with ‘Count On You’ really speaks about the ups and downs of the past year: “we are reeling, holding our breath as we go”.
Of the other tracks, ‘Paradise‘ is a rollicking nugget of joy, as is the modern day hoedown ‘Burn It Down‘ and ‘Bootleg‘ – the switch to male lead vocals gives the album an added zip and keeps the audience guessing.
Through the Smoke is an album with huge danceability and I’m betting this band have a great live set.
Guitarist and singer Josh Moore gives us his advice for aspiring musicians:
“Becoming a full-time touring musician takes time and persistence, and it doesn’t happen over night…but one show at a time you find yourself knowing a little more that it’s what you’re meant to do. More important than musicianship is being able to relate to the audience, be kind, be humble, unapologetically be yourself and the audience will feel it. We all started as a garage band in Montana, writing our own songs and struggling to get better every day… write your own songs and believe what you say, it’s a beautiful thing! The best advice we ever got was from our late friend Jeff Austin, as we nervously warmed up backstage he came over and calmly said “Just be yourselves guys, they’re gonna love you”.
Through the Smoke was released on 30 July 2021 on Big Slippery Records. Get your copy here.
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