It’s often said that the best way to experience bluegrass music is to witness it live. Rarely is the energy of a live performance successfully translated onto an album – especially a studio recording. Thankfully, Elements, the new album from Asheville, North Carolina’s Fireside Collective and their first for local label Mountain Home Music Company, bursts from the speakers with the intensity and feeling of the stage monitors pounding into your chest front row center on a hot Saturday night at the Grey Eagle.
Following up 2017’s self-released Life Between the Lines, Elements builds on the fleet-fingered work of their debut as it expands their songcraft. Produced by Travis Book (Infamous Stringdusters) and recorded in Asheville, Elements splits the songwriting and vocals almost evenly between guitarist Joe Cicero and mandolinist Jesse Iaquinto, with two tracks written by dobro and lap steel wiz Tommy Maher. Each songwriter sings the lead on their respective songs, but instead of sounding disjointed or at odds, each track works together as a cohesive whole, no doubt aided by Fireside Collective’s exquisite harmonies and vocal arrangements. (The group is rounded out by Alex Genova on banjo and Carson White on upright bass.)
Highlights abound: From the epic statement-of-purpose-of-sorts opener, “Winding Road,” and the poor-boy-a-long-way-from-home lament, “Done Deal,” to the foot-stompin’ trad-centric “Where the Broad River Runs” and the epic “Waiting for Tennessee,” Elements delivers a dizzying array of tempo changes and impressive dynamic shifts throughout.
Lyrically there’s nothing groundbreaking here, but the energy and excitement of the performances, harmonies, and musicianship allow you to gloss over any of the lyrical clichés that pop up here and there.
Elements closes with a bluesy reprise of “Winding Road,” as if to drive the point home, at the end of the journey of Fireside Collective’s most impressive set yet, that road indeed goes on forever.