Darlingside a Promising Band

Pilot Machines
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You might expect wall-to-wall bluegrass from a band with a name such as Darlingside, especially given that it’s a string quintet that features high tenor vocals, cello, mandolin, banjo, guitar, and bass (plus a makeshift drum kit). Don’t get too comfortable with your label, though, as these Pioneer Valley residents also like to plug in their acoustic instruments—including a skeletal cello–and, as one of their songs puts it, “blow the house down.” Darlingside is an impossible-to-pigeonhole ensemble capable of pumping out bluegrass when the mood strikes, but also of venturing into progressive rock and spinning off some classical passages. A lot of the music is atmospheric in the way that musical renegades such as Bela Fleck like to mix it, with vocals subsumed in a thick mix in which frenetic cello, fiddle, and mandolin often punch through the mix. On song ssuch as “The Woods” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tly5ObwBOOo or “Drowning Elvis” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tly5ObwBOOo it’s as if McKendree Spring, a progressive folk band from the 1970s, reappeared and merged with Snow Patrol.  As documented in “The Company We Keep,” Darlingside was a group of friends before it was a band. There is an intuitive ease between instrument and voice that comes from such familiarity, and also moments in which results feel too interior—like a musical moment in which you had to be there to get it. But give the lads props for trying to evolve something unique. There’s plenty here to suggest we are witnessing the first step in what will become a long stride.   

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