Two-time International Bluegrass Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year, Balsam Range, has become one of the genre’s most award-winning acts. Since forming in 2007, the group has garnered 13 IBMA awards on the heels of 8 critically-acclaimed albums. Balsam Range has left audiences spellbound while headlining major festivals from coast-to-coast, selling out venues across the nation and in multiple appearances at the Grand Ole Opry. The band collaborated with the Atlanta Pops Orchestra Ensemble to record 2 albums, the second of which, Mountain Overture, debuted on the Billboard Bluegrass Chart at #5 and the Classical Crossover Chart at #6. Their album Mountain Voodoo, debuted at #4 on the Billboard Bluegrass Albums Chart and remained on that chart for 45 weeks. This new release, Moxie and Mettle includes the band’s four distinct radio singles all of which stayed for multiple weeks and months at radio’s #1 spot with some also being added to Spotify’s Grass Roots playlist.
“Richest Man,” poses comparisons between material wealth and other kinds of abundance, challenging perceptions of what it means to be “the richest man in the graveyard.” Balsam Range’s first song since the release of the chart-topping Aeonic underlines what we all have in common, at a moment when our universal humanity has never been more apparent.
“Rivers, Rains and Runaway Trains,” from IBMA Songwriter of the Year, Milan Miller and frequent co-writer Beth Husband, draws a vivid portrait of a man long habituated to careful planning – “I’ve never been the kind to roll the dice” — who finds his world turned upside down in the instant he sees the object of his affection. The song’s powerful chorus reveals the narrator up against “forces of nature that nothing restrains/Rivers and rains and runaway trains.”
“Grit and Grace” is the single from which this album derives its title. An emotional meditation on meeting hard times with perseverance and spiritual courage — “one part moxie [and] another part mettle,” as it’s put in the song’s soaring chorus — it’s 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.
On “Santa Barbara,” the quintet offers yet another of the many outlooks and attitudes their music exemplifies. Sung by two-time IBMA Male Vocalist of the Year, Buddy Melton (fiddle), it’s a song that captures the complicated attitude of a man 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.
Other highlights; “Highway Side” slated to be the next radio focus, the Gospel song, “His Tomb Is Empty Now,” the moonshiner ballad “Franklin County,” and “Traveling Blues.”
Even with all the awards, the #1 hits and more than a decade of steady success, for Balsam Range what matters most is a song, a message, a distinctive sound and a compelling performance. And though the western North Carolina quintet is known as a bluegrass band par excellence, they’ve always escaped easy categorization; just when you think you’ve got them pegged, they’ll surprise you once again.