Whenever a new contemporary bluegrass comes onto the scene, comparisons to Nickel Creek happen faster than “Free Bird” being yelled at a Lynard Skynard concert. Yet when listening to Rose’s Pawn Shop‘s latest album, Dancing On The Gallows (out June 1st), it would be near heretical to not mention Chris Thile and the gang.
Rose’s Pawn Shop is as close to authentic bluegrass roots as you can get from an L.A. band. This is a compliment, not a bash. The banjos, slide guitar, and fiddle create that atmosphere you feel at a festival full of haystacks and Coca-cola on a summer day.
Dancing On The Gallows has a very much a traditional vibe to it. Although lead vocalist Paul Givant sounds to be channeling Thile’s voice on many of the tracks, the album is less approachable on a pop level as Nickel Creek has been known to be. Every song is full of twang. Listening to songs such as “Straw Man” makes it clear that this band is not your usual pop band.
In the respect to their Americana predecessors, Rose’s Pawn Shop keeps their lyrics simple. Nothing is breaking the mold but will satisfy the appetites for the nostalgia of old fashion heartbreak. There are some memorable one liners such as “you have a picture perfect selective memory,” on the song “Strangers.”
The heartbreak continues on the track “Pine Box,” Givant sings “Tell you everything but I’m feeling so alone.” In other circumstances, these lyrics could seem trite and not so original. In the context of the music, however, everything pieces together just right.
While the album could be praised endlessly for its recognition to heritage, it can be a cumbersome listen for a fairweather bluegrass listener. Whereas acts such as The Avett Brothers and Allison Kraus gives tastes of this famously blue collar genre, Rose’s Pawn Shop doesn’t mess around. It is in your face, barefoot, good time, unashamed bluegrass.
Rose’s Pawn Shop makes a statement with their music. Life is hard and we’re gonna sing about it and get over it. Sometimes its upbeat, sometimes its slow and sorrowful. Regardless, they know their roots and that is remarkably bold.