Cornmeal, the Midwest bluegrass powerhouse from Chicago, IL, is back after a nine-year hiatus with their latest album, Slow Street. The new release an outstanding collection of original material that remains steeped in American Bluegrass and Appalachian roots tradition.
However, this pressing didn’t come easy. What originally began in 2011, Cornmeal would have to shelve the recording and deal with the adversity of a lineup change before being able to complete their fourth and latest studio album. Original and founding member Allie Kral departed in 2013, and guitarist and drummer Kris and JP Nowak followed suit shortly thereafter.
As Slow Street proves, a change in chemistry is not always a bad thing. Occasionally, you need to tweak a few ingredients to breathe new life into an old family recipe. These results are delicious.
The opening track, “Goodnight, My Darling”, bids farewell to old loves, camouflaging the suicidal torment of a broken heart in lush tones of carefree campground harmonies. Moving along with “Coming Back Home”, banjoist Wavy Dave Burlingame croons through the poignant monotony yet noble virtues of life on the road. His experiences with a touring band are something the majority of fans who travel the country seeing live music can identify with: towns blending together, the bittersweet excitement of returning home, the façade of glamour amongst those back home who really don’t understand the grueling aspects that one takes on during the arduous journey, while balancing the need for the last great American Adventure that is TOUR. All of this, while segueing into and out of island reggae rhythms.
The quintet, completed with the founding member Chris Gangi on bass and new additions Scott Tipping on guitar, Phil Roach on fiddle, and Drew Little on drums, have absolutely nailed it on their first release together. “Oh Leah Lea” resurrects the sounds of Cab Calloway and the Harlem, NY big band cotton club jazz- emotive swing and showcase scat.
With each of the album’s ten tracks, Cornmeal flexes their collective roots with a blend of maturity and sophistication. Slow Street is something special- it manages to bridge the sounds of old with a modern twist. This resurrection of Americana has staying power, capable of captivating whether on first listen or fortieth. Currently gearing up for a mellower summer tour than years past, spanning the Midwest, Pacific Northwest, and West Coast, Cornmeal is back on the radar and are guaranteed to impress.
You can listen to a handful of new tracks through the Cornmeal website, where you can also find information about the band and where to purchase Slow Street.