WE BANJO 3 – Roots To Rise Live (own label WB3CD006)

Roots To Rise LiveWe’ve been through this before but… We Banjo 3 are two pairs of brothers, the Howleys and the Seahills who play a sort of Irish-Americana. They mix traditional songs and tunes with original compositions which they rely on more heavily these days. Roots To Rise Live was recorded in front of enthusiastic audiences over two nights in Ann Arbor, Michigan earlier this year. This isn’t their first live album but it’s the first one I’ve heard and it came as something of surprise. For their studio albums We Banjo 3 employ guest musicians and everything that a studio can offer and I’ve sometimes found their arrangements rather too dense although tightly controlled. I was expecting, therefore, that the volume and speed would be cranked up. How wrong I was. Stripped back to just what the four of them can do, I’d venture to say that Roots To Rise Live is the best We Banjo 3 album I‘ve heard.

The album opens with ‘Shine On’ which exhibits just the right level of freedom to set the album on its way. That’s followed by the instrumental set, ‘Puncheon Floor’, the title track from their most recent album, Haven, and the waltz, ‘Marry Me Monday’ from the same set. ‘Little Liza Jane’ is a real crowd pleaser and so is ‘Wynne’s’ as the pace builds up but, before that, ‘This Is Home’ settles things down a little. The set, as it’s presented here, is beautifully constructed so that by the time we get to ‘Prettiest Little Girl’ the guys are really rocking. ‘Trying To Love’ doesn’t let up and the traditional instrumental set, ‘Good Time Old Time’ sends the crowd home in a very happy mood.

If you weren’t in Ann Arbor back in February, and it’s probable that you weren’t, this is a perfect record of what you missed.

Dai Jeffries

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‘Prettiest Little Girl’ – live: