an album review by Joshua Beane
Jam bands are not exactly my genre. Far too often I feel like the musicians involved descend into showing off how impressive they play at the cost of any real feeling or emotion. Sometimes the best music is not played by the best musicians. For example, I think that The Ramones made infinitely better music than Phish. Yet, here I am, touting the new self-titled album from Morgantown’s own Fletcher’s Grove.
Having seen Fletcher’s Grove a few times and heard the lead single, “Mourning Mountaineer,” on WTSQ, I somewhat knew what to expect from this record. For those who haven’t yet had to opportunity to do either, I assure you Fletcher’s Grove is not here to pile endlessly noodled line upon line—these guys really can play, at times shifting from recognizable jam tropes to more original improvisations, but always making music that is as tuneful and fun as it is masterfully executed.
To me, Fletcher’s Grove also has a distinctly Appalachian sound. Bits of jazz, bluegrass, and old-time music pop up sporadically in the band’s songs, and as spiritual ancestors to the modern jam band scene, these genres blend with other influences in a formula unique to this band.
The band’s third studio album, Fletcher’s Grove is excellently recorded. In a genre of music focused so heavily on the performance aspect, the listener’s ease in following what each band member is doing makes the recording especially satisfying, particularly on tracks like “Tree Thugger.” Follow the guitar as it goes from a John Carpenter’s Halloween-esque intro into a proggy, full band jam. The song would be right at home on a Umphreys McGee record.
One of the shorter tracks, “Mourning Mountaineer” still allows Fletcher’s Grove room to stretch its legs and jam. Additionally, while the song is a fun, buoyant romp that audiences can dance and sing along to, it still makes a serious point about the historic flooding in southern West Virginia:
“Well, the sun doesn’t always shine / in West Virginia
Oh, but the people do / shine in gold and blue
On every mourning mountaineer
On every mourning mountaineer.”
Fletcher’s Grove is a West Virginian band that knows the character of its neighbors—people who looked out for each other during and after the floods and who carried their determined spirits onward in the months following. “Mourning Mountaineer” is a song I hope those folks treasure, because it says a lot about the character of the people in this state.
Fletcher’s Grove’s bassist, John Inghram, can easily provide the rhythmic foundation necessary for a great song. However, on a track like “Straight to the Moon,” Inghram also provides a propulsive quality that no other instrument can achieve, locked, in some places, right with the drums, and, in others, displaying a virtuosic blizzard of popping funk.
From hot-rodded ballads, to growling blues guitar rockers, to single songs that stretch from classic prog to straight-up psychedelia, Fletcher’s Grove offers a surprising diversity of sound, all of it delivered with the expert aplomb of players who have honed a distinctive aesthetic though performing hundreds of live shows together. Fletcher’s Grove is here to make sure you have a good time, whether at a live show or listening to a recording. With Fletcher’s Grove, the band has personally exceeded my expectations and cemented me as a fan.