march 2012

brand new stringsSTAY TUNED
Brand New Strings
Rural Rhythm

Though the latest word from Brand New Strings is but seven songs total clocking in at a bit more than 21 minutes playing time, the quintet’s music is so effervescent and so honestly rendered you feel like you’ve heard more than the disc offers. Which may speak to the substance the songs offer but also says a lot about the depth of singing and playing offered by this slightly reconfigured lineup (bassist Tony Mowell and hotshot fiddler Preston Schmidt are new to the lineup that recorded the band’s acclaimed 2010 debut, No Strings Attached, with founding members Randall Massengill, Mike Ramsey and Stuart Wyrick still holding down the fort).

Six of the seven tunes are band originals, with the lone cover being a delightful, bluesy sprint through “I Washed My Hands In Muddy Water” featuring an emphatic lead vocal from Ramsey along with tasty, discursive solos by Wyrick (banjo), Schmidt and Brandon Bostic on resophonic guitar. Ramsey is especially effective, and the smooth harmonies most affecting, in extolling Christ’s humanity and sacrifice in the Ramsey-penned, upbeat gospel celebration, “Behold the Lamb,” with the accompanying instrumental solos striking a balance between exuberance and reverence, in perfect sync with the tune’s ambiance. Of two Massengill originals, the opening barnburner, “Other Side of Lonesome,” to which Massengill contributes an emotional lead vocal ahead of Ramsey’s rousing mandolin break, speaks to the singer’s heartache even as it can be read as a missive from the struggling 99 percenters. Massengill’s other high energy tune, “The Guitar,” about a fellow determined to make a living off his instrument, carries with it a certain fatalistic tinge in its composer’s keening vocal telling of the protagonist’s struggles in “chasing down his dream.” The song’s bustling pace gains added lift and a decided western flavor from Paul Niehaus’s bright pedal steel swoops along with a driving guitar solo courtesy Massengill himself. On the tender side, Wyrick offers a banjo-rich love song, “That’s You,” fueled by an exuberant rhythmic thrust, another impassioned Massengill vocal and a beautifully harmonized chorus, with Schmidt adding extra spice to the touching sentiments with a spirited fiddle solo. Yes, you wish there were more, but there will be. Brand New Strings is in a good groove. -–David McGee

Brand New Strings’ Stay Tuned is available at

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Laura Fissinger, Christopher Hill, Derk Richardson
Logo Design: John Mendelsohn (
Website Design: Kieran McGee (
Staff Photographers: Audrey Harrod (Louisville, KY;, Alicia Zappier (New York)
Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024