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Kane's River
Same River Twice

Review By Steven Stone
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Kane's River Same River Twice

CD Number: Snake River Records SRR-117 

 

  First time I saw this group was on stage at the Mid-Winter bluegrass festival in Denver, Colorado. After only one set I was a fan. They don't look like a traditional bluegrass band, no matched outfits, no siblings or relatives, and their music draws from too many sources to be called old-style bluegrass. Perhaps folk-grass or singer-songwriter-grass would be a better description of what they do.

Originally formed by guitarist/singer John Lowell in 1993, Kane's River's current roster includes co-founder David Thompson on bass and vocals, Julie Elkins on banjo and vocals, Jason Thomas on fiddle, mandolin, and vocals, and Ben Winship on mandolin and vocals. Ben joined Kane's River in 2002 after stints with Tony Furtado, Tish Hinojosa, Matt Flinner, and David Grier. Perhaps the most impressive thing about Kane's River is the cohesion and maturity of the band's sound. Just as in a traditional bluegrass band, each instrument and player has their particular musical role, but unlike a more traditional band the roles are less rigid and more innovative.

Unlike most bluegrass bands, who usually perform and record some covers, Kane's River do mostly original material. On Same River Twice only four songs, a reworking of "False Hearted Lover" by Tony Furtado, "Listening to the Rain" by Donald Devanney, "A Far Cry" by Mike Dowling, and "Wind in the Wires" by David Francey, are not from the pens of one of the band members. David Thompson, Ben Winship, and John Lowell each contribute three tunes apiece while Julie Elkins co-wrote two songs with David Thompson to complete Same River Twice's playlist. Julie, John, and Ben all share lead vocal duties, and everyone in the band adds harmony vocals. One of the two instrumentals on Same River Twice, "Foisted Possum," written by Ben Winship, has an especially infectious melody line that instantly sent me to my mandolin to learn it. I suspect several of the other tunes on Same River Twice will also find their way into many players' repertoires.

The sonics on Same River Twice deserve some attention. Produced by Ben Winship and Kane's River, Winship also served as the engineer in addition to sharing mastering duties with John Scherf. The final result sounds as good as any acoustic recording I've heard from any major label. Both warm and articulate, the sound serves the music nicely. Winship's Heiden mandolin sounds especially convincing, just as did when I heard him play it live.

Same River Twice proves that Kane's River is among the brightest of a new generation of bluegrass bands who are not afraid to let broader influences have an effect on their music. I'm definitely a fan, and after a listen I suspect you will join me.

 

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