Rebel Records has released High Fidelity’s debut, Hills And Home. A nod to the rich and vibrant history of bluegrass music, Hills And Home collects 14 rare and lesser-known songs from the repertoire of groundbreaking musicians from two generations ago, including Jim & Jesse and Reno & Smiley, as well as the Louvin Brothers, Charlie Monroe, and more. The album has already received high-praise from Bluegrass Today and The Bluegrass Situation, as well as music blog Fervor Coulee, which calls Hills And Home “an exciting bluegrass release from a group that creates the kind of bluegrass too seldom heard today.”
We are aiming to find good songs with a good message and melody that fit the style that we intend to represent: bands of the late ’50s and early ’60s like Reno & Smiley and Jim & Jesse. We choose obscure songs that these type of groups did or reach further back to get material that we like that we feel fits our style – lead vocalist – Jeremy.
The High Fidelity lineup took shape in 2014, leading up to a competition for new bands at the SPBGMA (Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America) Convention in Nashville. The group features Jeremy Stephens on banjo and guitar, Corrina Rose Logston Stephens on fiddle, banjo player Kurt Stephenson, bassist Vickie Vaughn and multi-instrumentalist Daniel Amick on mandolin, banjo, guitar. They assembled a list of decades-old songs that they could flawlessly recreate on stage, including some gems from the Stanley Brothers. Before long, the band realised they could put their own stamp on the material without losing the integrity of the original recordings. With that newfound perspective, High Fidelity handily won that year’s contest. Their self-titled, self-released album followed in 2016.
Jeremy and Corrina co-produced Hills And Home with Brad Benge. Nearly half of the songs on the album are duets – a staple of early bluegrass and High Fidelity’s incredibly tight harmonies recall the classic brother duos.
My goal is for someone to hear what we do and for them to think, “that’s a cool traditional bluegrass band,” and maybe later see a photo of us and think, “wow, they have two women in the band – I never would have thought that. Several times people have heard Jeremy and I sing without realising who was singing which part and have referred to me as a man or thought Jeremy and Kurt were singing. That makes me very happy, not because I am trying to sound like a man but because I want to sing so similarly and close to Jeremy that people hear us and think of brother duets – Corrina.
Songs such as I Ain’t Gonna Work Tomorrow, Maple on the Hill, Gotta Get You Near Me Blues, My Saviour’s Train, The Leaf of Love and My Mother’s White Rose feature the vocal pairing of Jeremy and Corrina. In the duo, Jeremy is a strong, passionate lead vocalist and Corrina belts out the tenor.
Stephenson joins in to create some stunning trios on other songs such as I’ve Changed My Mind, I Will Always Be Waiting For You, I Would Not Be Denied, He’s Passing This Way, Will the Circle Be Unbroken?, as well as the disc’s title track.
Gospel music is another cornerstone of Hills And Home, with five sacred numbers – My Saviour’s Train, I’ve Changed My Mind, I Would Not Be Denied, He’s Passing This Way and Will the Circle Be Unbroken? – featured on the collection. Gospel music is very important to all of us in High Fidelity. We believe the words that we sing, and we very carefully choose the gospel songs that we sing for their message. At the same time, we aim to choose secular songs that are wholesome and that don’t contradict the gospel songs. Everyone has struggles and problems in life, so we sing about those kinds of things as well, but we feel that the message in the gospel songs holds the answer to all we deal with in life – Jeremy Stephens.
There are a few surprises throughout the album as well. Jeremy suggested a twin banjo arrangement of Gotta Get You Near Me Blues after hearing Buddy Holly’s recording, an obscure cut written by Bob Montgomery that was released on a compilation after Holly’s untimely death. After hearing a radio transcription of the Carter Sisters singing The Leaf of Love, the band recorded it as a last-minute addition to Hills And Home. The collection concludes with the lesser-known original composition of Will the Circle Be Unbroken?
The High Fidelity labels have since become synonymous with great, classic bluegrass recordings in the bluegrass collective consciousness. High Fidelity is really an archaic term now but I think when people hear it, even if they don’t have a full technical understanding of it, it still evokes connotations of LPs and vintage recordings. Now technically some of what we do is post – high fidelity era – a lot of Jim & Jesse and Reno & Smiley material that we model ourselves after is early stereo recordings. However, we are still drawing from that spirit of the music birthed in the High Fidelity era – Corrina.
Hills And Home is available to stream on Spotify and Apple Music or download from iTunes, Amazon or Google Play.
Hills and Home Track List:
|1. My Saviour’s Train
2. The Leaf of Love
3. The Hills and Home
4. My Mother’s White Rose
5. Follow the Leader
6. I’ve Changed My Mind
7. I Ain’t Gonna Work Tomorrow
|8. I Will Always Be Waiting For You
9. Maple on the Hill
10. I Would Not Be Denied
11. Gotta Get You Near Me Blues
12. He’s Passing This Way
13. Grey Eagle
14. Will the Circle Be Unbroken?