“If I have seen further,” Isaac Newton once wrote, “it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Bluegrass musicians can certainly relate. Our music wouldn’t exist without the foundational work of Bill Monroe, Flatt & Scruggs, the Stanley Brothers, and all the others who established the sound in the 1940s and ’50s. But with each new generation, the list of giants gets longer. Today’s young musicians also stand on the shoulders of the Country Gentlemen and the Seldom Scene, the New Grass Revival and David Grisman, Alison Krauss and Doyle Lawson. The vantage point rises ever higher, and the vistas become ever grander.
On this, their third album, Serene Green is clearly enjoying the view, while paying ample respect to the shoulders under their feet. The band’s six original selections sit comfortably alongside a half-dozen well-chosen covers, and lose nothing in the comparison. The vocal trio of bassist Shane McGeehan, guitarist Michael Johnson, and mandolinist Quentin Fisher oozes conviction. Banjoist Steve Leonard adorns his solid breaks and backup with dazzling cascades of triplets, while the newest band member, Katelynn Casper, swings ferociously on fiddle and delivers a powerful performance of one of Dolly Parton’s most moving songs.
Del McCoury, Mac Martin, Gloria Belle, Chris Warner, Tom Adams, and Danny Paisley are among Pennsylvania’s many gifts to bluegrass. Let’s add Serene Green to the list, and look for more great music from them in the years to come.