On their newest album, Hills And Home, High Fidelity doesn’t “mine” classic, vintage bluegrass aesthetics — musical or otherwise. Instead, they make them from scratch, celebrating traditional bluegrass from long before the advent of its current form (in other words, something decidedly post-Bluegrass Album Band). The result doesn’t end up feeling like a bluegrass analog to the Postmodern Jukebox, though, because it’s not just a role being played or a brand being opted into. What registers as a possibly affected throwback, time capsule, good ol’ days sound is truly just the favorite iteration, the favorite bluegrass style of the band.
The beauty in that simple approach to truly authentic music — authentic to themselves and their personalities as well as the origins of the genre — is that they regale us with forgotten stylistic flourishes and gems of eras prior. On “Follow the Leader” that means not just Don Reno-style banjo picking, it means Don Reno-style banjo picking times two. Jeremy Stephens, perhaps the foremost Reno-style player in his generation, joins National Banjo Champion Kurt Stephenson on an impossibly deft, perfectly synced double banjo rendering of the classic Reno-written instrumental. It combines these all-too-rare, uniquely banjo-rific skills in a package that you’ll go back to over and over and over again — if you have your five string, three finger priorities in order. And you won’t be worn out, you won’t ever find it gratuitously saccharine or caricatural, because it isn’t a trope. It’s High Fidelity.
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