By Pat Moran | From the November-December 2020 issue of Strings magazine
True to its name, Twisted Pine represents an eclectic branch of the bluegrass family tree. For its sophomore album, Right Now (Signature Sounds), the Boston four-piece stretches beyond string-band music, embracing funk, pop, soul, and buoyant jazz. The playful “Papaya” likens ripening fruit to a blossoming relationship. Here Kathleen Parks’ coquettish corkscrewing fiddle and Anh Phung’s free-falling flute segue into a bouncy nonsense chorus that keeps repeating the tune’s title.
As a vocalist, Parks proves to be a smooth and brassy belter in line with Lake Street Dive’s Rachael Price, spearheading the jaunty R&B jammer “Right Now” through a swarm of tight harmonies and interlacing spirals of fluttering flute and twisting fiddle.
The Father John Misty cover “Well, You Can Do It Without Me” ups the R&B ante with Parks’ sassy vocals bouncing above her own dissonant sighing fiddle, as Phung’s louche and twittering flute, Dan Bui’s percussive mandolin, and Chris Sartori’s loping bass and funky cowbell entwine.
“Dreamaway” starts out as a quiet confessional ballad before it takes a tight left turn toward a sinister bass-led stomp. Then it shapeshifts once more into a funky doo-wop dominated by Parks’ whirligig fiddle and the ever-tightening coils of Phung’s flute.
Just when you think the four-piece has forsaken its string-band roots, the ensemble kicks into gear with the barn-burning “Come Along Jody.” As virtuosic fiddle, mandolin, flute, and bass solos dovetail into a dizzying round-robin, it becomes clear that the genre-blending Twisted Pine hasn’t fallen all that far from the traditional tree.