Album Review: Cherryholmes – Cherryholmes IV: Common Threads
Family band Cherryholmes burst onto the scene seemingly out of nowhere in 2005 with the release of their first album for Skaggs Family Records; that year they also won the IBMA Entertainer of the Year award. Five years later, the Cherryholmes family—Jere, Sandy, Cia, Skip, B.J., and Molly—are still one of music’s most entertaining acts whether you’re seeing them live or listening to their records. Newest release Cherryholmes IV: Common Threads again finds the family blending bluegrass, country, and jazz on a baker’s dozen of songs that make up the group’s strongest album since their self-titled debut.
Cia Cherryholmes is the nucleus of the group. An artist mature beyond her 26 years, she’s been responsible for past gems like “This Is My Son” (from Cherryholmes III: Don’t Believe) and “Brand New Heartache.” Her sharp lyrics are backed with top notch banjo picking while her clear soprano, reminiscent of Rhonda Vincent’s, once again carries the bulk of the album’s lead vocals. Every Cia-penned song on the record—she wrote or co-wrote six of the 13 songs—is a keeper, but her best work can be found on “Weaver of Lies,” which finds that pretty voice singing some ugly truths: “Man has always been so very naïve/A wooden horse or fruit on a tree…The truth is often so unkind/And that may be why/I am a weaver of lies.” Opening track “When It’s Not With Me Everyday” is perhaps the album’s best song, with its catchy chorus, family harmonies, and stellar arrangement, which includes Ricky Skaggs on guitar.
Molly, the youngest band member, wasn’t even 12 years old when, with the help of Cia, she wrote “Makin’ Time” for the band’s self-titled Skaggs Family debut. Now 17, she’s blossomed into a deft fiddler and creative songwriter. Delicate, Krauss-like ballad “Live It,” the album’s first single, offers up some tough love in a manner which rings truer than a lot of material churned out by songwriters twice her age. “I Am Your Conscience” is the grassiest track on the album, with its driving banjo, impeccable family harmonies, and Molly’s lively lead vocals.
There’s only one instrumental track on Common Threads, but it’s a good one—remember, two-thirds of this band have been playing their instruments for approximately half their lives. “Tattoo of a Smudge,” composed by B.J. and Molly, starts out sounding fairly similar to “Sumatra” (from Don’t Believe) with its frenzied fiddle intro, but quickly distinguishes itself as the entire family gets in on the act with fascinating interplay and lightning quick solos. Clocking in at under three minutes, it’s Common Thread’s shortest track, but it ends the album with a bang, not to mention a pressing urge to hit the repeat button.
Although the album largely centers on the younger band members, their parents aren’t exactly slouches. Matriarch Sandy is responsible for most of the album’s snappy mandolin and a pair of gospel songs that includes the gently swinging “Changed in a Moment;” bassist Jere, assisted by B.J., produced the record with Ben Isaacs, who’s worked on Cherryholmeses I-III.
The album does have a couple of duds: “Making Pretend” has a lovely arrangement, but the lyrics, penned by B.J., are awkwardly phrased and delivered— he’s much better when cautioning against the Devil’s influence on “Idle Minds.” Meanwhile, the dreadfully dull ballad “It’s Your Love” only has one thing going for it: the fact that it’s not a cover of the Tim McGraw/Faith Hill duet. Despite these slight missteps, Common Threads is an enjoyable and entertaining album that grows on you with each listen. After hearing the band’s progression between Cherryholmes and Common Threads, it’s exciting to ponder just where these talented artists will go next.
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