When people who are really into wine talk about wine they don’t tend to speak in generalities, but rather a whole range of specifics. They talk about the hints of this and that, the various notes of such and such. Seeing people talk about these things on TV, it seems it’s not just descriptors. They seem to take enjoyment in all the elements of the wine as much or more as they like a wine as a whole. A wine isn’t a thing itself, but rather a collection of little things, all of which seem to deliver a little hit of appreciation or pleasure.
This new disc from Volume Five, Milestones, is much like that. There are some really great songs—“North Dakota” perhaps particularly—but it’s almost more about the parts than it is the whole. The mandolin chops are so clean, so dry, and so beautifully placed within the mix. The guitar entry to “Tell Me You’re Not Leaving” so perfect, with such a clear tone. In those things, and many more, there is a lot to love here, all of it pointing to the mastery of the musicians and the quality of the production. The content can be bleak, and there’s loads of heartbreak and bare-bones introspection on offer. The narrator in “North Dakota” says that it’s “less than you deserve, but you stay with me anyway.” The song ends with a hope to get the barley in the ground, if only to make it through another year on a farm that’s “twenty miles from either town.” The narrator of “Hayley,” has a history that is a bit murky yet clearly full of regret. There aren’t many moments of joy to go around, but maybe that’s just part and parcel of the genre (well, of course it is) and also one of the things that draw us to it.
Volume Five was named emerging artist of the year at this year’s IBMA. They’ve been at it for ten years, and have grown in that time, both as musically as well as a becoming a more cohesive group. There is a clarity of vision here, too, which buoys the quality of the work; the personality of the band is coming forward, and the members are stating that identity with more ease. For all of that, this album is easily their best to date, so to be named emerging artist after a decade of work isn’t really as wilting as it might seem. Emerging doesn’t mean new, necessarily but gaining a wider audience and a more prominent place. Indeed, Volume Five is really coming into its own, and rightly finding a place in a very busy musical marketplace. It’s certainly nice to see them gaining more attention at the IBMA. They deserve it. This album is definitely worth your attention.