On the HBO comedy special 2 Dope Queens, comedian Naomi Ekperigin says about the current state of America: “If America was a character in a movie … what we’re dealing with, this would be the part in the movie where America coughs into a rag and then pulls it away and sees blood.” With biting cadence she concludes: “America, girl, you got the consumption.”
On Ride Free, Spirit Family Reunion doesn’t diagnose the abundance of hate and conflict that permeates America, and the world, like Ekperigin does, nor do they directly address current affairs. But they do, with their ebullient sounds of camaraderie, offer an antidote.
Spirit Family Reunion’s third LP has a timeless country spirit that’s heightened by their use of banjo, fiddle, washboard, and mandolin. The majority of the tracks are upbeat and boisterous, and the band’s harmonious voices warmly surround you. Altogether, listening to Ride Free feels like being at a house show with all of your friends.
Fittingly, home is a reoccurring safe haven on Ride Free. On the rollicking album standout “Midnight Train” and the following track “Would You Would or Would You Won’t?”, home is a refuge from the wild outside world. Spirit Family Reunion really emphasizes this point on the anthemic and playful tune “When I Get Home.” Here, with Maggie Carson and her banjo at the helm, the band celebrates the protective powers of home and the simple pleasure of staying indoors.
The band’s contagious collective energy buzzes loud on Ride Free thanks in part to how the record came to be. After touring their 2015 album Hands Together, Spirit Family Reunion was burnt out and decided to break up. But soon after, the band booked studio time and their new record poured out of them. “It totally feels like a new era, but at the same time getting back in touch with the joys of making music together that originated our band,” Nick Panken told Billboard. By rediscovering these joys, Spirit Family Reunion made an album that’s a soothing balm.