I am not by any means a huge bluegrass fan, but the guys in Boy Name Banjo make me want to start listening to more of it. They effortlessly blend charismatic folk-pop melodies, bluegrass twang, and wise, yet down to earth lyrics into a mixture that has already gained them some notoriety (see for example this recent article about Boy Named Banjo in The Daily Times). I first heard their music when I saw them play a small college show in Sewanee, TN, where a few of the members attended school at the time. They were clearly well known at the school and extremely popular with the students. While I may have been one of the few who did not know the Boy Named Banjo, it did not take me long to join in the sentiment of the crowd, as the band brought an energy and aura to their performance that was impossible to ignore. I listened to them a decent amount for a couple weeks after that show, but then slowly forgot about them. Recently, though, I have been getting back into their music and have been very impressed by both the new music they have released since I last listened and their live performances I have been able to find on YouTube. One of my favorites is a rendition of their song “Birdman,” performed and recorded as Boy Named Banjo’s entry for the NPR’s 2016 Tiny Desk Contest.
In “Birdman,” the band sings of yearning for freedom, a feeling that is experienced by so many, and pairs it with a feel-good, bluegrass instrumental that makes for an inspirational anthem. Songs like this, where bluegrass rhythm meet broadly relatable lyricism, are a staple of Boy Named Banjo and also where they shine the brightest. The emotion the band creates with their songs through the topics they tackle and their easy-going style of playing reminds me why I love music so much in the first place. Take for example their song “19.”
I might be able to relate to this song especially well it is temporally relevant, but I believe the song is also extremely successful because they are able to take a sentiment that is so widely felt and express it as few can. The chorus, “When you’re nineteen, everything just feels so far away,” is about as simple as a phrase can get, but within the simplicity their is an immense amount of understanding and emotion that creates empathy within listeners. Their ability to do this bodes extremely well for the future of Boy Named Banjo and I am excited to see where they will go in the future. If you like these songs, be sure to check out the band on their social media sites and listen to the rest of their catalogue on Spotify.