It has to be mentioned somewhere, so let’s get it out of the way now. Full disclosure, we consider the fellas of Colebrook Road as personal friends. Away from The Brewgrass Chronicle, we are fans of the band.
Ethically it is important we make that known. And if that colors your reaction to this review, we understand. Especially since we suspect there will be those who accuse us of gushing about their new album, “Hindsight is 2020,” out today on Mountain Fever Records.
That we know the band, and are from the same part of Pennsylvania, is also relevant to this review because it is being written under unusual circumstances. “Hindsight is 2020” was originally set to be released in March of 2020. The band was nominated for an IBMA Emerging Artist Momentum Award following the 2019 release of their Mountain Fever Records debut “On Time.” The plan was to strike while the iron was hot, hit the road behind it all summer to pick up momentum heading into September’s IBMA gathering.
Of course we all know what happened in March 2020. Almost all momentum everywhere came to a halt. The release was put on hold. Not sure anybody thought it would be another year until the band could plan to get out behind it.
In the meantime, in its occasional, mostly outdoor gigs prior to its current tour, Colebrook Road has been playing the new stuff from this album. And since those outdoor gigs include a few backyard “house” shows and a couple of other local gigs we’ve been at, it’s a new release of familiar, to us, favorites.
It’s been long enough since the album was completed for the song “Back To Where We’ve Been,” the banjo-driven second cut on the album, to take on a new meaning. Originally an ode to returning to some favorite venues, by the time the album is being released it has taken on a bigger, anxious to be able to be back on the road tone.
For those familiar with the winding two-lane country road from which the band takes its name, the album is a perfect reflection of the area that lies between Pennsylvania’s state capital, Harrisburg, and Lancaster. Two songs in particular, “Dry Ground Blues,” and “Coyote” have their roots in guitar player, lead singer, and songwriter Jesse Eisenbise’s home near Hershey, Pa.
“Dry Ground Blues” is a farmer’s plea for rain inspired by Eisenbise’s childhood memories of a drought’s impact on his family’s farm and the dustbowl tales of his grandparents. “Coyote” laments the housing developments encroaching nearby.
Both reflect Eisenbise’s knack for writing strong, poetic lyrics, as does “Carolina Side,” a hauntingly beautiful tale of finding your way home that features some clawhammer banjo by Mark Rast. Rast, who wrote the instrumental title cut, also shows off a little more versatility playing dobro on “Dance in Three,” a soulful, melancholy waltz written by fiddle player Joe McAnulty.
The 10-song album of all original material closes with another McAnulty tune, “Days in the Nightime,” a celebration of bad behavior that features an infectious bass line by Jeff Campbell that surely deserves a solo, at least thus far missing in live performances of the song. It’s one of those rare bass lines that can suck you in and turn all the other instruments into background compliments.
That is saying a lot about how much we dig the bass on that one because every other picker in the band actually takes a break in this one. And the musicianship throughout the album befits the outstanding songwriting. It’s not just Wade Brooks Yankey’s monster chops and inventive solos on the mandolin, McAnulty’s fiddle virtuosity, Rast’s five-string shreds, or Eisenbise’s sneaky good flat picking. It’s the way they fit those pieces together seamlessly, sharing breaks like an old couple that finishes each other’s sentences. It is the sort of tightness that comes from playing together since 2009.
As an aside, Eisenbise and Yankey actually have known each other since seventh grade and graduated high school together, but they didn’t start playing music together until they were reacquainted when they both moved back to the area a few years before they formed the band.
So, do we like the album? Yes, a lot. But like we told you at the start, we are biased. So best you give it a listen and decide for yourself.You will be glad you did.
Colebrook Road “Hindsight is 2020” is available through the band’s web site and on major streaming services