Backs to My Roots – Sequoia Rose
Sequoia Rose is known to the bluegrass community as an award-winning mandolinist and a former member of The James King Band. His latest release, Back To My Roots, is a blend between traditional sounds and more progressive musical ideas.
The bulk of the album’s nine tracks were written by Rose. The title track is a ballad that places strong emphasis on the overall theme of this project. The minimalist configuration of guitar and bass brings even greater light to Sequoia’s silky lead vocals.
The true highlights of this recording are the instrumental pieces which showcase Rose’s strong and soulful mandolin playing. West Union, Lambaste, and Miller’s Reel pairs Sequoia with guitarist Cody Kilby, bassist Barry Bales, banjoist Scott Vestal, resophonic guitarist Randy Kohrs, and fiddler Andy Leftwich.
Please Don’t Fade Away is the one track that felt out of place. It doesn’t fit into any one category stylistically speaking. The instrumentation which features electric guitar and drums is vastly different from anything else on this project. This song also contains some unnecessary vulgarity.
Trap House Blues is a moving and heartfelt piece on drug addiction and the life consequences one can face as a result of that dependency.
Two of the album’s tracks should be familiar to bluegrass listeners. Crazy Heart is a song that’s been previously recorded by artists such as James King and the Lonesome River Band, among others. Sequoia Rose does a great straight ahead rendition with solid instrumental backing from Clay Hess on banjo and John Bellew on bass. All I Ever Loved Was You was written by Ricky Skaggs’ mother, Dorothy, and has been covered by many artists over the years. Rose’s simple duet version featuring himself on guitar, mandolin, and vocals, along with Bellew on bass, is a fitting closer for this project.
Back To My Roots is somewhat of a fitting title for this album. Sequoia Rose has released a recording that pays homage to tradition while also looking forward and slightly pushing the boundaries. It is a well-conceived effort.