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‘Blue Ruin’ is impressive, innovative

Article Published: Jun. 6, 2013 | Modified: Jun. 6, 2013
‘Blue Ruin’ is impressive, innovative

Who thought that a blend of bluegrass, jazz, indie rock and hip-hop could sound like anything other than an instrumental apocalypse?

The mix of genres is so diverse, you’d think it would come out nothing less than a noisy mess.
However, Head for the Hills uses its newest album, “Blue Ruin,” to prove that the assorted genres can actually be combined to create an extremely unique product.

This Colorado band’s previous three albums, “Robbers Roost” (2007), “Head for the Hills” (2010) and “Head for the Hills – Live” (2012), have already made the band locally known for its unique style.

Most of the songs, including “Take Me Back,” “Blue Ruin” and “Lover’s Scorn,” are given a very distinct bluegrass sound by Michael Chappell on the mandolin and Joe Lessard on the fiddle, violin and banjo.

However, other songs play up different genres. “Look At You Now” has a more relaxed, indie feel, and “Dependency Co.” has instrumentals more similar to jazz and vocals comparable to hip-hop.
Personally, bluegrass is among my least favorite genres, so this album probably won’t be making it onto my playlist, but I did enjoy the songs that had a more subtle bluegrass sound, and I was incredibly impressed with their ability to combine so many different styles into one fluid album.

At times, the different styles can feel overwhelming, making it hard to focus on the lyrics. This may be the reason for the instrumental songs, “Pricilla the Chinchilla” and “Breakfast Noir.”

On many of the tracks, the vocals, generally done by Adam Kinghorn, Matt Loewen and Joe Lessard, don’t sound like they would in a typical bluegrass song. This helps the genres blend, but it seems to make the lyrics take a back seat to the instruments.

This may be intentional, considering toned down vocals make the dark nature of the lyrics less threatening. Some songs focus on death, others on broken relationships and lost loved ones. But each song carries the same dark tone.

“Blue Ruin” is an impressive, innovative album that could easily lead this new category of music into a more widely known genre. Although bluegrass fans will enjoy the instrumental music, indie fans will probably appreciate the originality of the music.

It may not be for everyone, but Head for the Hills’s musical talent is an apparent skill that can be appreciated by all.

Head for the Hills is scheduled to perform at several upcoming music festivals, including 4 Peaks Music Festival, Bluegrass in Paradise and Westword Music Showcase Ballot.

“Blue Ruin” is available for pre-order and is scheduled to release July 9.

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