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The Bankesters The Bankesters
Album: Nightbird
Label: Compass
Tracks: 11

A family bluegrass outfit from Illinois, the five piece is led by sisters Alysha (mandolin,fiddle), Emily (clawhammer banjo, fiddle) and Melissa (upright bass) with the latter's husband, Kyle on guitar and banjo and dad Phil Bankester on guitar. This is their sixth album, but probably the first to get much exposure outside of the US. Bluegrass admirers will undoubtedly think that's long overdue.

They're not big on songwriting, only two numbers originating from within the band, Melissa, in partnership with Rick Lang, contributing the dusty country-folk strummer "Wild Bill and Vivian" and the spooked banjo and fiddle scraping more bluegrass gospel "When I Die". Lang also provides bluegrass chugger album opener, "Nightbird". There's another family contribution in the dreamily swaying "I Need You Like That", part written by, I assume, Emily's husband, Mo Pitney.

The remaining cuts are all covers, and, although unknown to me, the names Jon Weisberger and Ed Williams will probably ring bells in bluegrass circles, the former responsible for the sprightly "If It Wasn't For The Rain" and the latter the equally frisky banjo-led "Nothing But Sky".

The latter's one of two numbers to feature dad on lead, the other being a bluegrass banjo take on Paula Breedlove and Brad Davis' funky country gospel "Never Give The Devil A Ride". The album closes with the close harmony notes of Christian country writer Sara Groves' hymnal "He's Always Been Faithful" while, sparking wider recognition, they also bring a bluegrass arrangement to Collective Soul's 90s hit "Shine" and give a moodily, bluesy reading of Jack White's "Seven Nation Army". It's unlikely to create many rippled outside of the bluegrass market, but within their chosen sound this should certainly raise their standing several notches.

Mike Davies