Under The Big Oak Tree is already well established as one of the finer bluegrass outfits in the Midwest and with their third album release they show they are still growing as a group. Literally and figuratively that is, they added ace guitarist Jason Riley for “The Ark” and he is a big part of why this album sets itself apart from their other releases.
As the band has done in the past they show a range of emotions. There are several sincere songs here, from the deeply personal “Dear Brother” and “Daytime Moon” both penned by primary singer Kristin Hamilton to the Simon Fink composition “Love Me Like You Loved Me Back Then” that perfectly tensions the heart-strings. Even stand-up bass player Doug Ward gets in on the fun with the playful “For The Love,” making for one of the albums more colorful moments. The perky “O Marry Me Not” is clearly among the shining moments on the album with its sincerity buried under some lively playfulness. Some of the best songs here are dark in nature though, on “Eleanor” the grave mood the band often shows shines through with ominous music to match. On the title track “The Ark” you’ll get a perfect microcosm of the record as dark and light are held side by side, each with annotations and like the album, not one side is valued higher than the other.
The band continues to expand their sound here, eager to show their many talents and utilizing each band member’s skills, including new member Jason Riley’s heavily textured guitar. This is the group’s most interesting album to date and it begs for repeated listens.
Key Tracks: “O Marry Me Not” “Eleanor” “The Ark”