It’s hard to sound both traditional and contemporary at the same time, especially in a tradition-bound genre such as bluegrass, but Australian combo Mustered Courage manage to do just that on their latest album Powerlines. Featuring Austin, Texas native and current Australia resident Nick Keeling and a cast of down under pickers, the band’s instrumentation suggests a classic Monroe-style bluegrass act yet the performances here are steeped in rootsy rock ‘n’ roll and uptempo folk.
If the Drive-By Truckers did a bluegrass album, it might sound a lot like “Behind the Bullet” (That even sounds like a Truckers song title, doesn’t it?), with its wicked steel guitar licks and plaintive blues vocal, while the following track, “My Hometown”, isn’t a cover of the Springsteen song but rather a gently plucked pop-folk ballad that fans of Amos Lee or Jason Mraz might find to their liking.
When the band tackles anything approaching straight bluegrass, they play it with high spirits and energy to burn, as on the breakneck pace of the instrumental “Allegheny” or the classic harmonies of “Standing By Your Side.” They reference John Henry in the tightly arranged vocal quartet number “Towin’ the Chain” and do the dark side of bluegrass, Blue Highway style, on the album’s title track, “Powerlines.”
Mustered Courage will be appearing at the Americana Music Conference on September 18th, their only scheduled live date in the USA. In the video below, the band stars as terrible street performers who eventually find their niche–as a bluegrass band, of course: