Music, Print, Reviews March 1, 2020

Album Review: Whitewater Ramble – Pseudonymous

by Cole Peterson

Whitewater Ramble recently dropped their third full length, the long awaited non-live release Pseudonymous. Bluegrass at their core, Ft. Collins-based WWR stray from the norm with rock, soul, and dance infusions. Self-branded as “High Octane Rocky Mountain Dance Grass,” Pseudonymous gives fans what they’ve been waiting for and challenges new listeners too.

Not breaking from high production traditions, the intro track “Broken Rocks” begins with dark, ominous chanting, drums, claps, and sound effects. An out-of-place dance beat fades in from the distance, completely deserting all tension and intrigue, but denotes the cross-over risks the quintet often take. 

“Broken Rocks” moves into a fast-paced, stringed dance tune with organ and soul-inspired back-up vocals. “Hollow” follows, giving us the traditional bluegrass feel we might expect, with fiddle and mandolin leading the charge. Phasers and other well placed sound effects are present, though, proving that WWR think outside the square dance.

“3 Minutes 2 Spare” then completely deviates from any bluegrass roots, and is all funk. This is far from a flaw, and is easily the most accessible track on the album, boasting an appearance by The Motet’s Joey Porter.

Branching further out, “Kentucky Windage,” a single released last year as part of a now award-winning short film, contains darker Southern rock vibes. 

If listeners stumble across this project with no previous WWR experience, they might leave feeling a bit confused by so many components: church themes, southern rock quips, funky jams, and “Ohh wait a second! Is that Chuck Berry?” “No, it’s just Buddy Holly with a banjo.” 

But for fear of being too critical, please know, there’s a lot to like with this project. The production is clearly high end; the instrumentals and musicianship are there in spades. But overall, Pseudonymous feels more like a collage than a masterpiece painting. It’s not the journey the intro promises, but fans of the eclectic will certainly find something to love.

Whitewater Ramble perform April 17 and 18 at the Wort Hotel in Jackson, WY and return home to Fort Collins for FoCoMX 2020.