We Banjo 3 aren’t strictly about banjos, although banjos are a big part of the mix. However, they’re also more than simply a run of the mill bluegrass band. Breaching the boundary between old world tradition and authentic Americana, they incorporate banjo (natch), fiddle, guitar and mandolin to procure a style they dub “Celtgrass.” Now six albums in, the band — brothers in by birth Edna Schahil tenor banjo, vocals) and Fergal Scahil (fiddle, viola, dobro, percussion, guitar, mandolin, vocals) and Martin Howley (tenor banjo, mandolin, vocals) and David Howley (lead vocals, guitar) — find cohesion in music that’s exuberant, enthralling and imbued with emotion.
That’s evident more than ever on their latest offering, Haven, an album that sums up the strengths of this band over the course of its eleven enticing songs. The one-two punch of opening tracks “Haven” and “Light in the Sky” provide an upbeat assessment of the status quo, while the rousing refrain that anchors “Pack It Up” and the beautiful ballad “War of Love” further affirm those assertive sentiments. Adding an assortment of instrumentals to the mix — “Annabelle’s Cannon,” “Dawn Breaks,” “Marry Me Monday” and “Sugar House” — doesn’t detract whatsoever, but rather adds extra exhilaration to the proceedings, resulting in a sunny set of songs that ensure the listener remains enticed from the first entry to the last.
There’s a lesson to be learned here as well. It’s one thing to be astute musicians — which this band assuredly is — but it’s quite another thing to be able to craft melodies that are worthy of that articulate approach. Suffice it to say that We Banjo 3 are adept at doing both. “Don’t let me down, don’t leave me on the cold hard ground,” they sing on “Don’t Let Me Down,” even as the album winds down to its end. Clearly, they’ve done their part to make sure that contract is complete. An exceptional album, Haven ought to ensure that We Banjo 3 reach the sanctified status of they deserve.