The Farewell Drifters

Yellow Tag Mondays

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When is a bluegrass band not a bluegrass band? The Farewell Drifters prompt that question throughout their debut album, Yellow Tag Mondays. Their instrumentation -- acoustic guitars, fiddle, mandolin, upright bass -- is undeniably in the bluegrass format, and tracks like "Virginia Bell" and the colorfully titled instrumental "I've Got Your Heart in My Hand, and I'm Gonna Squeeze" (F.Y.I., their label is called Heart Squeeze) wouldn't sound out of place on a Del McCoury album. They play for bluegrass festival audiences as a matter of course. But before the genre gavel comes down pronouncing the Nashville-based quintet "bluegrass," the judge would be advised to listen to the bulk of their album, on which the Farewell Drifters seem to be a straight-up pop/rock outfit that just happens to pick acoustic axes and lack a drummer. Zach Bevill's lead vocals bear not a trace of the high-lonesome sound, and most of the time, the harmonies of his fellow Drifters show more fealty to classic pop than country. The songs themselves mostly follow suit -- the hooks, riffs, and groove (yes, kids, it's possible to have a groove without employing a drummer) of tunes like "Everyone Is Talking" and "Love We Left Behind" wouldn't even suggest a country leaning if not for the fiddle sawing and mandolin picking. It's similarly telling that the album's lone cover tune is a straight-across-the-plate version of the Beatles' Baroque pop Revolver ballad "For No One." Nor does it seem to be a coincidence that Yellow Tag Mondays is front-loaded with the three aforementioned tracks. The Farewell Drifters don't try to hide their bluegrass influences -- at times they wear them proudly -- but it's plain that they've got another agenda that takes priority. Maybe it doesn't really matter whether that makes them newgrass, "contemporary bluegrass," or just a pop band that doesn't like to plug in.

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