Make Good Neighbors – The Well Drinkers
First things first. Did the band choose their handle based on the fact that they drink well or simply drink from a well. It really doesn’t matter, given the fact that their seven song EP, Make Good Neighbors, provides an impressive introduction. Founded just three years ago, the Western North Carolina-based band, The Well Drinkers — Jake Bachman (lead vocals, mandolin), Adam Bachman (dobro, pedal steel, vocals), Josh Riley (upright bass, vocals), Jeremy Rilko (banjo, vocals), and Andrew Wakefield (guitar, vocals) — specializes in a sound that basks in the basics of bluegrass while taking a progressive posture. Other elements are occasionally tossed into the mix — a stirring take on Phil Collins’ In the Air Tonight affirms their inventive approach overall — but they never stray too far afield.
Opening track Neon Train kicks up the energy at the outset, while proving their prowess for the sake of creating an instant impression. Nevertheless, the songs mostly tend to emphasize emotion over flash and frenzy. Ball and Chain, Saluda, and Southern Town reflect the band’s songwriting skills while also stirring up some sentiment. On the other hand, the most upbeat entry, Good Neighbors, provides a positive vibe that also makes it the albums most immediately accessible entry. It’s nothing less than a down-home delight, and along with the earnest and engaging closing track, Sara Sorrow, it leaves a lingering impression that ought to encourage listeners to anticipate much more.
Hopefully though, they won’t have to wait long. Make Good Neighbors is a strong debut, one that indicates The Well Drinkers have plenty more memorable melodies waiting to surface from below their reservoir as well. For the time being, however, they deserve credit for an able debut, one that lives up to all the optimism and engagement the title obviously implies.