In Greek mythology, poets often opened the first passages of epic works of literature by asking muses for inspiration and guidance in telling their story. On “Walnut Tree,” the headlining track on the debut EP from new bluegrass supergroup Lovers Leap, a similar sensation comes to mind, as the four musicians involved harmonize on the bright-eyed lyrics to end the song’s final refrain:
Way over yonder in the walnut tree,
Pretty little bird sang a song for me
She sang up high, sang down low,
Tell me little bird, which way to go…
These words, along with the uplifting dobro-led melody, seem fitting for this foursome that were drawn together in serendipitous fashion and then compelled to make an album together. Comprised of former Della Mae bassist Shelby Means, Sol Driven Train guitarist and songwriter Joel Timmons, and songwriters and multi-instrumentalists Mary Lucey and Billy Cardine, Lovers Leap emerges as, in their own words, a “musical blind date.” When the earthly hum of a cello melds with airy vocals for the mystical beginning of “Red Dawn Awakening,” song number two on the EP, it’s clear we have something special on our hands. Lovers Leap, the group’s self-titled record set for release next month on April 19, is a short but serious collection of songs, crafted by seasoned artists that have found a way to augment their individual abilities into a gorgeous, homogenous blend.
Fusing this blend throughout is tight, invigorated instrumentation from all members that puts both a newgrass kind of kick behind much of the music, but that also imbues it’s more contemplative corners with intense color. “Love is Gonna Live” gets a real nice dobro solo on the song’s quiet bridge, while staccato-style guitar and percussion put a worldly groove behind the breezy “Great Expectations.” “Love is Gonna Live” and “Love Brewed Cold” balance themes of passion, loss, and hope between bluegrass rhythms and a folky sense of songwriting.
In addition to the elaborate picking going on, the record also displays creative use of three dynamic vocalists, with the voices of Timmons, Means, and Lucey weaving around each other and their instruments in uncanny fashion. After five strong originals, Lovers Leap round out their EP with a version of the Woody Guthrie and Jeff Tweedy penned “California Stars.” Guitar and dobro command a heavenly sound and work with all three voices to make this a truly ethereal rendition.
Lovers Leap themselves describe the background of their lives that has, it sounds like, seemed to both challenge and empower the forces comprising this debut. Taken from the official press release of the band:
Recording took place at the end of a steep gravel road, back in a mountain holler above Asheville, NC at Cardine and Lucey’s home studio. The tranquil isolation, surrounded by trees and songbirds, seeped into the tracks and filled the sessions with a sense of calm and place. Through the process of trying out songs for each other and arranging and producing the music together, the band collectively shined some musical gems. Recording in such an environment, however, was not without challenges or interruptions from Billy and Mary’s two boys, dogs, and hive of bees. The resulting EP was a labor of love, with one or two day recording sessions spread out over a year and carved out of the hectic schedule of four busy lives. Lucey has been writing songs and plucking the banjo at home out of the spotlight for a few years, focused instead on her nursing career and raising her two sons. Cardine juggles fatherhood with a busy recording and touring schedule across the globe for a variety of musical projects. Timmons and Means live in Nashville, balancing their individual music careers with their duo’s international tour calendar. As seasoned musicians, Lovers Leap has captured their unique chemistry in an alluring debut project sure to grab the attention of the roots music scene and beyond.
The foursome’s self-titled debut is a knock-out first effort, and hopefully it’s the first of many productions they have to offer the musical world. In the meantime, the band has just a handful of shows planned so far, scheduled for a few dates in Knoxville and Nashville in Tennessee, and then Greenville and Panola in South Carolina.
See those dates and more information at the band’s website at https://loversleapband.com/