On Up the Hill and Through the Fog, the Slocan Ramblers—Darryl Poulsen on guitar, Adrian Gross on mandolin and mandola, Frank Evans on banjo, Charles James on bass—combine the punchy rhythms of jug band music, the rousing tempos of rock and pop, and the high-spirited rambling of bluegrass.
The opening track, “I Don’t Know,” is a pop-inflected rambler that sounds like a mix between the Lovin’ Spoonful and Steep Canyon Rangers. It rides along a dialogue between James’ unspooling bass lines and the other players’ sparkling mandolin, guitar, and banjo solos.
The jubilant “You Said Goodbye” scampers breathlessly, delivering a bluegrass breakdown that belies the loss of a loved one at the center of the song. Rather than bemoaning that loss, though, the breakneck instrumental bridges and the lack of a full stop between the first and second lines of each verse exhorts a celebration of life and love.
The band rumbles and rolls through Tom Petty’s “A Mind with a Heart of Its Own,” delivering a straight-ahead rock stomper with bluegrass tones. The atmospheric, instrumental “Snow Owl” gives each musician room to stretch out on solos. The old-time Appalachian ballad “Bill Fernie” tells a tale of love, death, longing, and the lessons we learn from each. The gorgeous harmonies of the lilting “Streetcar Lullaby” offer an exquisite meditation on loss and love.
The album closes with the rambunctious, roistering barn-burner “Bring Me Down Low,” which showcases each member’s ability to play off the other’s instrumental lines with fervor and joy.
The songs on Up the Hill and Through the Fog shine like beacons to light our way as we climb the steep slopes of loss, shrouded in the murkiness of uncertainty about both the present and the future. Every note illuminates the paths down which each song travels, making for a journey that shines with joy and brilliance.
Up the Hill and Through the Fog is available HERE.