True North is the third original release from Melbourne Australia’s The Stetson Family. It contains ten diverse and interesting original tracks and two nice covers – “Billy” from Bob Dylan’s Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid and a Stanley Brother’s song “How Mountain Girls Can Love”.
It’s been a while since the band’s last original release in 2011 (The Devil In His Sunday Best), due to some health issues and there’s a clear sense of joy that you can glean from the outfit being back together.
In fact, the album title is a reflection of being ‘onward and upward and back playing together’. According to the band’s media release:
True North is more than an album to us, it’s a document of our friendship, our kinship – and although we’re not related by blood, it’s the ‘family’ part of The Stetson Family.
The music here is a lovely blend of styles, all treated respectfully and with great care – straight-out spirited bluegrass, down-tempo ballads, traditional folk, Americana and alt.country. The band’s unique-sounding and tight harmony vocals are a feature throughout. The themes are earthy – drinking, friendship, conflict, love and family. Highlights for me are “Every Second Beat Of My Heart” and “Let It Ride” (Nadine Budge’s vocals are simply beautiful here), “Top Of The Mountain” and “Billy”. A mention also to the constant subtle and tender guitar work from John Bartholomeusz’.
The Stetson Family is Budge (lead vocals, guitar, dobro), Bartholomeusz (guitar, lead vocals), Colin Swan (banjo, backing vocals), Andy Carswell (mandolin, backing vocals) and Luke Richardson (double bass, backing vocals). Special guests on the record are Gleny Rae (fiddle), Liz Stringer and Suzannah Espie (backing vocals), Bree Hartley (percussion) and Nick O’Mara (resonator and steel guitars).
True North was produced by Budge and Swan and engineered by Swan and Colin Wynne between Thirty Mill Studios, Brunswick and ‘The Stetson Family Ranch’ in Coburg.
It’s a delightful and loving release.