It’s their second album, but for many listeners next week’s release of The Fourth Wall by Nashville’s The Vespers may be their introduction to the group–if so, it’s bound to make a good first impression.
The band is composed of two sisters and two brothers, all Nashville natives, who met randomly and began playing, performing, and recording together soon after. The girls dominate the vocals, but all four play multiple roles on a variety of acoustic instruments, including banjo, dobro, mandolin, guitar, and more. despite their hometown this is neither country or bluegrass music, rather it’s a more elemental, intrinsically American form of traditional-sounding songcraft that draws on historical and biblical inspiration along with more common themes of love and loss.
There are multiple high points, but it’s hard to top the opening track “Better Now”. Sung from the perspective of the blind man Jesus healed, dealing with the disbelief and incredulity of his family and friends, he nonetheless trumpets his healing to all who will listen. Set to a methodically plucked banjo, the tune pushes and pulls at all the right places to create an emotionally gripping piece.
Elsewhere the group is less serious, though no less vivid. “Flower Flower” could be a kid’s song it’s so jaunty and happy-sounding, yet it encapsulates longing and a need for purpose in a simple story of a flower waiting to be picked. “Instrument For You” is a classic musician’s metaphor that sounds like a century-old mountain song, while “Will You Love Me” is a love song that Civil Wars fans will latch on to immediately as close kin to that duo’s sentimental side.
The fourth wall, in theater and performance-speak, is the front of the stage, or in television it’s the screen itself, and it’s rarely broken or the spell of the story will be broken as well. The Vespers’ music is so heartfelt, pure and expressive that the barrier between performer and audience isn’t a wall, but a pathway that both sides will be walking together for some time to come.