Boston-based, string band Mile Twelve recently graced the Sertoma Amphitheatre in Cary, NC’s Bond Metro Park for their first show stateside after a three-week tour in Ireland. “We thought that maybe you had never heard bluegrass in North Carolina,” guitarist Evan Murphy quipped of their Massachusetts roots. “So, we thought we’d come down here and play some for you.”
Mile Twelve’s set is mostly no-bullshit bluegrass that dabbles in classic country and progressive acoustic, giving their act depth without giving-in to gimmick (no cutesy bluegrass covers of Britney Spears here). The word “fresh” follows Mile Twelve and their self-titled debut album though “green” or “blossoming” may prove more apt. What surprises listeners (and what I think all that talk of “fresh” is getting at) is that this young string band is truly bluegrass–not another Mumford/Trampled-by-Turtles (acoustic rock + mandolin) imposter–and that much is refreshing.
Steady, freight-train rhythms and tight, harmonic vocals define the bookend tracks “Heartbroken” and “Our Last Goodbye.” “Rooftop Graveyard” tells of a Manhattan home that is decidedly not the Dixieland of which so many of their contemporaries and predecessors sing. Mile Twelve’s sound seems as at home in the bustle of a city street as it is among a lazy breeze through a piney wood.
New Zealand-born banjoist BB Bowness’s bluesy runs in “Ain’t Coming Back” show flashes of budding brilliance in “33 Good Years.” Murphy calls Bowness “possibly the greatest bluegrass banjo player to ever come out of New Zealand.” I’m not well-versed in New Zealand’s banjoists but Bowness certainly holds her own on stage and in studio.
The real gem of the album is “Out of Me.” A waltz sung by smoky-voiced bassist Nate Sabat, “Out of Me” culminates in a soul-tugging, bow duet between Sabat’s bass and Bronwyn Keith-Hynes’s weeping fiddle. Here, especially, Mile Twelve’s promise shines. They know music. They’re not guessing at which notes might-could go where. They are real, long-haul musicians just figuring each other and themselves out. I can hear it coming together, ripening. For now, it all sounds so “fresh.”
So, give the kids a listen and, maybe, spot them an encouraging buck or two. You can stream Mile Twelve’s debut album for free at MileTwelveBluegrass.com. The album is also available for digital download on Amazon.com.