It all begins with a song. It’s a motto that Balsam Range has adopted and carried throughout their nearly 15-year career. Few artists can deliver songs that move people, and connect to audiences like this quintet from the mountains of North Carolina. With their newest album, Moxie and Mettle, Balsam Range released a series of singles that preceded the full album. The tremendous result was a coveted spot at the top of the Bluegrass Today charts for each of them.
“Richest Man,” released in May of 2020, was the first single from this collection to reach #1, followed subsequently by “Grit and Grace,” “Rivers, Rains and Runaway Trains,” “Santa Barbara” and the latest, “Highway Side,” which topped the chart in December of 2021.
In “Richest Man,” an observation of shared humanity is revealed through a contrast between material wealth and other kinds of abundance. It asserts what we all have in common, especially at a moment when our universal humanity has never been more apparent.
“Grit and Grace” is an emotional meditation on meeting hard times with perseverance and spiritual courage — “one part moxie [and] another part mettle”— and a continuation of the tradition of reflecting genuine trials and the qualities it takes to overcome them, a heartfelt response to life’s struggles that gains its strength from the sense of community and values shared by both the band and their fans.
“Rivers, Rains and Runaway Trains,” offers a more narrowly drawn portrait from the pen of IBMA Songwriter of the Year, Milan Miller, and frequent co-writer Beth Husband; its depiction of a man long habituated to careful planning who finds his world turned upside down by a whirlwind romance is at once powerful and intimate.
Similarly, “Santa Barbara,” places the spotlight on a lone individual — here a man who’s too self-aware to deny the gap between the life he lives and the one he wants, or to deny his own responsibility for the difference.
“Highway Side”’s concise two minute story marries a Rashomon-like glimpse of a driver passing a hitchhiker to a propulsive bluegrass beat that delivers the song’s empathetic message — "I wonder how did he get there...Something tells me he and I are the same” — through strong harmonies, deft picking and an irresistible sing-along chorus.
Each of these songs (like the rest of Moxie and Mettle) speaks to the broad range of human experience, an intent Balsam Range has always had.
Listen to the album HERE.