Noblesville's best-kept secret may well be Noble Roots, a distinctive trio of bluegrass goodness featuring some of Central Indiana's strongest traditionalist picking coupled with exquisite harmonies.
The band is Kelli Ray Yates on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, John Gilmore on harmony, guitar and mandolin and Gary Wasson on harmony and bass. The trio melds perfectly from song one on the band's self-titled album. Featuring a dozen songs crafted primarily by Gilmore, and aided by a roster of guest musicians. Noble Roots showcases musicians at home in their own skin, ready to show Central Indiana what down-home Americana is all about.
“If the river was whisky and I was a diving duck, I'd dive to the bottom and never ever come up,” they sing on “Barfly's Lament,” as fiddle ebbs and flows over a steady percussion of bass and mandolin. This track in particular highlights Gilmore's penchant for a strong, memorable line. The album is as full of them as it is with drinking songs — “We're Done” in particular shares a wry sense with Loretta Lynn's “Don't Come Home A Drinkin' With Lovin' On Your Mind.”
But the album really shines when Yates lets loose and sings lead, particularly on “Wish I Could,” which opens with a skeleton of accordion, bass and mandolin as she sings of lost love and the memories that, left unchecked, can eat you alive. Whisky wishes come from her mouth to our ears in such a way that we can all but smell the desperation and fear. “Yeah, I s'pose I drink too much and it's doin' me no good,” she sings. “But it's how I try to hide my heart from the pain that I withstood. I just need one good reason, then perhaps I would shake this off and straighten out. I really wish I could.”
This album earns my recommendation for anyone on your holiday list who appreciates solidly-crafted bluegrass music with heart and respect for genre conventions. As a trio, Noble Roots has laid the groundwork for local success and if they are as good live — and they'll play live on Saturday at Logan Street Sanctuary — as on this record, they'll have no trouble spreading the word through Central Indiana and beyond. There are many bands in the region mixing bluegrass with other genres, but it's refreshing to hear artists sticking to traditional roots music while playing originals. I'm excited to hear what 2017 has in store for them.
If you go
Noble Roots Album Release with Cara Jean Marcy opening
Saturday, December 3
Logan Street Sanctuary, 1274 Logan St. (Noblesville)
$15 for admission and album, all-ages