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There are a fair number of bluegrass/folk groups in this area and the genre has gained a lot of new found favor world wide. Duluth based bluegrass group, Trampled by Turtles, recently playing their second David Letterman performance goes to show the potential popularity of string bands. Those who are fans of the genre should have no problem getting behind the debut album by Tin Can Gin which was released back in April.
Much of the album features hard driving and up-tempo bluegrass that holds close to traditional ties, but certainly pulls out aspects that make it a little more modern. Over the last few years the band has played out regularly and has enjoyed a decent following and notoriety including being featured with Pert’ Near Sandstone on the Big Top Chautauqua tent stage outside of Bayfield, WI. The string band includes Harrison Olk (banjo/vocals), Trevor Marrin (guitar/vocals), Bryan Nelson (mandolin), Mark Glen (upright bass) and Nori Perrine (fiddle).
It’s fair to say that the group has honed their skills and the picking on the banjo, mandolin and guitar seldom lets up. The bass expertly bounces around and the fiddle work tops off the old-timey feel that the group possesses. There are a few nods to the Twin Ports area in the lyrics but it seems the main reoccurring theme is drinking in a number of the tracks. Whether it’s to drown out problems or sorrows or just to have fun, there are multiple references to hitting the bottle. The album keeps an optimistic feel overall while acknowledging the hard times that sometimes happen.
When it comes to having a little bit of a deeper message while keeping optimistic in the songs I’ll mention the final track on the album titled “Faded Glory” first. “The dreadful thought of being alone/the moment in your life when money won’t show/the thought in your heart that you will know/ignite your belief and the truth will glow,” goes a part of the verse. In a way the final track is an affirmation that things will be alright despite trials and whatever means that are needed to overcome them.
The fast paced track, “Devil’s Spit,” certainly brings out some of hard drinking nature of a number of the songs. “I’m at the point where there’s nothing to grasp/another round is gone too fast/I’m falling down in a gravel pit/I’ve spent the past five nights drinking Devil’s spit,” goes a part of the chorus. Some tracks are self explanatory by title alone such as “Brew Shakes,” “Souptown Shake Down,” and “Carmody.” The track “Walking Along the Edge” goes right out and admits, “But by these choices I have made, I’ll be digging my own grave.”
One song that stands out is the upbeat and festive instrumental “Blackberry Blossom.” It doesn’t really switch up, but it gains in tempo with each run through and is short enough where it doesn’t feel like it’s driving the fiddle driven song into the ground. The track “Pretty Nice Day” is also an undeniably positive and feel good track on the album.
For those who like bluegrass and folk, this is definitely an album worth checking out. For the most part it stays fun and upbeat but it does have themes of drinking which some people might not appreciate. The general feel of the group is that it’d be best to see them at a high energy show and would likely be best appreciated by a dancing audience.
The album was recorded, produced and engineered by the well seasoned audio skill of Tom Fabjance and was recorded at Sacred Heart Studios. The mix of all of the instruments doing their things simultaneously fits together well and the combination of vocal harmonies in parts makes this a strong and easy to get into album.
Tin Can Gin has two upcoming shows including “The Current Does Duluth” show at The Red Herring with Low and Sarah Krueger on July 25 and the “All Pints North Summer Brewfest” at the Bayfront on July 26 where they will share the stage with Sleep Study and Joey Ryan and the Inks.