There are very few things as satisfying as starting an album and knowing that you’re going to love it. You can sit back, relax and let the music wash over you. You don’t have to worry about skips. It feels like coming home. It’s a comfort in a time of uncertainty. It’s a lovely change in comparison to starting a record with apprehension.
“Tornillo” feels exactly like that.
Missoula-based band, the Lil Smokies, known widely for their performance at the Wilma’s Roaring ‘20s New Year’s Eve party, have released their third album.
There’s truly something special about the energy bluegrass and folk bring. There aren’t many things that can increase a folk fan’s heart rate like a fast banjo or the slide of a fiddle.
The Lil Smokies have mastered this energy. The audience at the Wilma that night got to see it first hand. Folks in suits and ties and flapper dresses swung around laughing, kicking their feet up to the beat of songs like “World’s on Fire” and “Wheel on the Water.”
“Tornillo” feels like a heart-and-soul album. Love songs float throughout, spreading a string of happiness. Listeners wait and wait for the other shoe (sadness, heartbreak, melancholy) to drop. It really doesn’t.
Even songs like “True Blues” sound joyful. Unless you’re listening very closely to the lyrics, you wouldn’t know it was about lost love. Heartbreak, but make it charming. It’s not faking it till you make it, it’s not letting yourself tear down who you are.
There’s nothing wrong with a happy album, and that’s something we often get wrong. The best seasons of life don’t need to be anguished over. Sadness shows us what we’re missing and gives us an opportunity to be grateful. But it is so refreshing to not feel like we’re being drowned by it.
Is “Tornillo” perfect? No, but nothing is. Are there songs that don’t quite hit like the rest do? Yes. But that doesn’t negate what is good about this record.
The album gives the music space to sink into the listener. It doesn’t feel like being drowned under stringed instruments. There is a chance for every note, every chord, every subtle belt to come home.
I love to support local music. But that isn’t why this album is so good and why it deserves recognition. It’s good because it brings pure, unbridled joy to those who listen to it. It gives the listener something to dance to even when they feel like they might cry. It’s everything a record by the Lil Smokies should be.
We should never say no to that type of joy.