Take a little bluegrass, add a dash of roots music, modernize everything with impeccable production, and you have the approach of Whitewater Ramble and their new album, Roots & Groove. Musicians Patrick Sites (mandolin), Patrick Latella (acoustic guitar), Howard Montgomery (bass), Zebulon Bowles (fiddle), and Paul Kemp (drums) keep the sound in a bluegrass format, even with the drums. It is the lyrics that provide the link to American roots music and provide the glue which fuses the two styles together.
They have developed their sound on the road as they have toured consistently for close to a decade. They have played many festivals and numerous small clubs in addition to supporting such artists as Little Feat, The Gourds, and Spearhead. They have released several live albums and now have brought that live energy to their second studio release.
Their lyrics travel in a number of directions within the confines of their style. Songs such as “Dear Mr. Bankman,” “Guilty As Charged,” “Long Dusty Driveway,” “Standard Deviation,” and “Family Tree” tell stories of heroes, villains, tragedy, triumph, and railing against the establishment. They even add a few reggae rhythms. The most interesting song is a bluegrass cover of U2’s “One Tree Hill.”
They have added a number of guest musicians. Dobro player Andy Hall, pedal steel guitarist John Macy, and pianist Bill McKay are all on hand to fill in the sound where needed, which helps to serve as a backdrop for the group’s tight harmonies.
Their sound may be connected to the bluegrass style of the past, but they have moved far beyond those rural roots. They manage to get into a groove that could not have been imagined by traditional bluegrass and roots artists.
Whitewater Ramble is a band that has matured. Their sound is both unique and memorable. Roots & Groove is an album that deserves some attention. Lyrically, vocally, and instrumentally it brings a fusion of bluegrass and roots music into the 21st century.