The self-titled debut from Boulder's 18 Switchbacks is essentially the very pleasing result of several former Deadheads and Colorado Americana/jam-band veterans getting serious about bluegrass songwriting. The romantically dusty lyrics and harmonies of dual singer-songwriter-guitarists Matt Wallwork and Tim Johnston are continuously beautiful throughout the seven-track EP, and upbeat bluegrass workouts such as "I Once Was" are nicely juxtaposed with mid-tempo country rock and tearjerker ballads. In a few spots — the bridge in "Clouds in 3," for instance — Johnston openly goes all out in what seems like an ill-fated quest for Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio's tone and touch. But when 18 Switchbacks relies solely on hard-fought execution and emotion — the essence of bluegrass — the spoils are glorious. Not to mention sincere: Gigging heavily all over Colorado, Idaho and Portland recently, members of 18 Switchbacks are living the ramblin' life they sing about in songs like "Goin' Down the Mountain."
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