Composed of multi-instrumentalists Brian Beken, Dennis Ludiker, Noah Jeffries and Jesse Dalton, Austin-based jammers MilkDrive have been nourishing their local bluegrass scene for a little while now. The group is known for swapping instruments and laying down hot rhythms with tight vocal harmonies. Beken, Ludiker and Jeffries met while competing in fiddle contests in the Midwest and began playing together. Jesse Dalton, who also plays upright bass for another fine Austin group called The Deer, rounds out this talented group of musicians.
Places You’ve Not Been is an important step for MilkDrive, a chance for the group to gain notoriety and a hope for national touring opportunities. Self-produced and recorded locally at Austin’s Bismeaux Studio Places kicks off with “Take Too Long,” setting the tone for the album with vocal harmonies and moving fiddle solos. They switch gears on the next track with a personal favorite, “Orion’s Waltz,” an instrumental treat that shows off the talent of these young musicians by taking turns soloing and complimenting one another. Elements of pop and jam grass can be heard on tracks such as “As They Go,” and “Bad Girl”, while “Hall Of Stone” is darker and bluesy. Moving into another instrumentally impressive track, MilkDrive gives us “Camp Schnool”, a tune reminiscent of the classic bluegrass outfit The Tony Rice Unit and, like the Unit, the band creates a space for improvisation and all out hard-hitting bluegrass. From beginning to end Places will have you on your feet dancing with your friends.
The word bluegrass in this context conjures up memories of drinking whiskey, dancing and hanging on a porch in the hot and humid southern climate of Austin. MilkDrive manages to captures this feeling in their new album. However, they are not a traditional bluegrass outfit, having as much in common with an indie folk band than with Bill Monroe. In this way they are paving their own path in the bluegrass scene and it will be exciting to see where they go next.
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