Last August, Mankato bluegrass trio The Last Revel lit out for an isolated cabin in Michigan's Upper Peninsula with a promise to record its first full-length album.
Tonight at the Kato Ballroom, they deliver on that promise with a CD release party for "Uprooted," a 13-track blend of thoughtfully constructed lyrics and clever instrumentation that announces The Last Revel as a band with serious intentions.
"In the last year, we've really grown as musicians and realized the potential of the path we're going down," said Ryan Acker who formed the band in 2011 with Lee Henke and Vinnie Donatelle. "We're taking more pride in what we're doing."
And with good reason.
"Uprooted" comes almost exactly two years since the band debuted its first recording, "The Mason Jar EP." But in the interim, band members hustled throughout the regional music scene, playing in the neighborhood of 130 shows a year. Though such a schedule left little time to record, it did provide plenty of opportunity to hone a repertoire founded on folk-minded harmonies, bluegrass tradition and the spirit of rock rebellion.
As such, listening to the band's latest work is akin to opening the cork on an aged spirit. And what emerges is complex, full-bodied and mature.
After a crafty instrumental intro, the first notes on the palate are "Lead Me Home," a sturdy, upright tune that serves as a sort of declaration that music-making is a vehicle for, rather than a byproduct of, the search for personal satisfaction: "I got a feelin'/in my bones/that this ramblin'/will lead me to my home."
On the next track, "Light in My Eyes," The Last Revel displays its emotional and instrumental range. For a band whose reputation is founded on spirited live performances and is admittedly more comfortable with up-tempo tracks, "Light in My Eyes" is decidedly contemplative and searching. The mood is underscored beautifully by Donatelle's fiddle solo, a 30-second tour de force that Acker characterized as one of the highlights of the album.