• Bryon Harris

Full Cord Bluegrass - 'Downtown'

Review by Ionas Finser

Full Cord was formed on an old Michigan logging road in the fall of '08. Sawin' logs and pickin' bluegrass came naturally to the members of Full Cord. Born out of wood, steel and horse hair, the band takes traditional music to a level rarely seen along the back roads of Michigan. With sounds reminiscent of newgrass bands from decades prior, the band electrifies audiences with mind bending riffs and hard driving bluegrass. The band boasts an extraordinary song catalog from originals to traditional country and bluegrass to modern pop hits, big band era tunes and everything in between. Full Cord Bluegrass has released 3 albums; Ready To Burn, Chop and Choreomania. Choreomania was released in 2019 and recently won a Jammie award for Listeners Choice Best New Album. Featured on National Indie Radio's Global Citizen Benefit, "Downtown" showcases the band's sizzling talent.

An easygoing, upbeat banjo strums its way into existence as “Downtown” commences. Gradually, more and more layers are introduced, until the mix is practically bursting with color and excitement. As the lead vocals come in, we are treated to a voice that is rich with passionate expression and bluegrass swagger.

The excitement and intrigue of “Downtown” never lets up; at every step there is a mandolin solo, or a new vibrant texture is introduced, or the tempo of the song changes entirely. In no way are these intricate changes jarring; in fact, the song never stops feeling natural and purely expressive.

The lyrics of the song don’t indicate some grand statement or political message, and rightly so. Instead, the lyrics capture the wildly imaginative experiences of the downtown streets of Portland, Oregon. When I say ‘imaginative’, it is not lightly. Paying attention to the lyrics of “Downtown” for even a moment yields the observation that the artists aim to bring originality and whimsy to every line.

“Ballerina dancing to a soundtrack

Shopping cart parade on the street

Junkie Reinhardt busking on the sidewalk

Ladies heels clicking to the beat

I'm going downtown tonight.”

The band is Eric Lange Jans who plays multiple instruments. Eric is affectionately called “Fast Eric” by his peers due to his lighting fast riffs on the guitar. Todd Kirschner is on upright bass. Todd has played in several bluegrass bands. Matthew Davis plays banjo. Matthew is an up and coming banjoist in the world of new acoustic music who has won several banjo championships. Grant Flicke is also a multi-instrumentalist: violin, mandolin, tenor guitar, tenor banjo, and nyckelharpa. Grant has won numerous prestigious awards. And acclaimed mandolin player, Brian Oberlin.

The musicianship of this band is a true marvel. The music in “Downtown” is what this style of music aught to be about: the unfettered expression of pure soul and emotion. After the last chord is struck, the listener feels like what one feels after a long, crazy night of dancing. Full Cord Bluegrass has crafted a piece of music that will never fail to lift your spirits.

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