Family Tree is a timely reminder that as humans, no matter where we come from, whatever our situation, our back story or life journey to date, there is always going to be more that connects us, more common ground to celebrate than that which seperates us. It’s worth remembering, more so now that ever at a time when identity politics seems to be an excuse to drive wedges through society and build barriers rather than bridges. It may conjure a family reunion in the obvious sense of the meaning but its an idea that you can take to far-reaching conclusions as well. A simple message but a profound one too.
Musically its a gorgeously simple slice of bluegrass infused country, a musically emotive sound, one that immediately talks of the American story, a perfect soundtrack to that great adventure, an adventure that despite what Hollywood and the history books tell you was carved out and created by families, ordinary people doing extraordinary things. And that, of course, is something worth remembering, worth celebrating.
And others have also celebrated it wonderfully for alongside the original Lucky Dog version, two other bands have chosen to put their spin on it, not just as a birthday present to writer David Schipper, but because its a great song and great songs are always perfect to play with, to evolve, adopt and adapt. The Pigtown Fling Stringband do so by making it sound even more homespun and historical, they push the violin to the front and make the riffs more raw and raucous to a point where the decades seem to fall away and you find yourself listening to what sounds like a historical archive recording…only with decent production.
Merry Weathers take things in a different direction again, and a no less deft and dexterous but more contemporary country-folk style emerges, somehow both dripping with tradition yet looking firmly to the future.
A good song is one that is able to be stripped down to its melodic core and built back up again in different styles, using different instruments, creating different vibes. And just to turn things full circle what we have here is a fantastic parent song and two offspring who whilst having their own individual characteristics also have similar sonic eyes, creative hands and artistic weight. See what I did there?