The Bankesters are a family band, and that fact–remember Cherryholmes?–can lead to a bit of head scratching. How? How is it possible that a family can all get together, each holding up his or her instrumental end of the bargain? But they do. Cherryholmes certainly did, and the Bankesters are coming up close to that.
This latest release is, unsurprisingly, their best so far, though they’ve had some success prior. In 2013 they released Love has Wheels which included “Cups (When I’m Gone)” which became something of a hit. The song is a version, two or three generations along, of the Carter’s “Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone,” in a version made famous by a pop band and covered by Anna Kendrick for the soundtrack of the film Pitch Perfect. I love that the Bankesters did it. In a sense their version–by young people who have feet in both the pop and bluegrass world–closes a circle. (Get it … the circle is unbroken …. )
In any case, this album continues the great work that they’ve been doing of late. They’re now at the point that writers and emcees need to include “family band” whenever they talk about them (though, yes, I’ve done it twice already here). They are operating as a professional unit, with a strong, confident stage presence, and that translates well to the recording studio, especially on this disc.
Nightbird is their third with Compass, and their third produced by Alison Brown. She knows what she’s doing, of course, and it shows. There are some other Compass artists appearing here–Sierra Hull, Josh Williams, Rob Ickes–and it’s a happy marriage of talents in all cases.
There’s a nice range of moods and arrangement across the disc, despite perhaps some soft spots here and there. Vocally the unit is best when it sticks with the daughters out front, as on “For Every Valley (There’s a Mountain)” and the title track, “Nightbird.” Otherwise the songwriting doesn’t perhaps jump up and grab you, but, a few listens in, that will change.
Did I mention that they’re a family band? … yup … it’s a puzzler …