The Slocan Ramblers Brim with Optimism and Bluegrass Cred on ‘Up the Hill and Through the Fog’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

Photo credit: Jen Squires

There are few things in the world of music that grabs your attention quite like a smartly crafted, completely reimagined cover of a song you’ve heard hundreds of times before. And while the Canadian Bluegrass/Roots trio The Slocan Ramblers are great at writing their own material, their take on Tom Petty’s “A Mind With a Heart of It’s Own,” off of their latest LP is simply inspired. While the Full Moon Fever-era pop track may have gotten lost at the time among the big radio hits that the classic album spun out, The Slocan Ramblers Bluesgrass-ified version perfectly showcases not only the brilliance of Petty’s song but serves as a perfect gateway to the band’s own music.

On Up the Hill and Through the Fog, the band’s most consistently solid record yet, the Toronto three-piece offer a dozen tracks brimming with optimism that serve as a musical balm for the past two years. The opening track, the slyly cool “I Don’t Know,” is a perfect marriage of smart, relatable lyrics and masterfully subtle playing. There are a few instrumentals scattered throughout the record where the band deftly brandishes their Bluegrass credentials, but as good as those songs are they just don’t match up to the ones where frontman Frank Evans sings.

The record was written during the pandemic, a time fraught with panic and uncertainty across the globe, but also one that saw members of the band losing family members and friends. It’s surprising then just how joyful this record sounds. Songs like the sweet “Streetcar Lullaby” and the infectious “Bury My Trouble” bely the collective mood of the past few years. But odds are it’s the captivating “The River Roaming Song” that will stick with you long after the song stops playing. The album closes on the near rapturous “Bring Me Down Low” capping off the band’s most satisfying album yet. 

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