Originating in the Mountainview, Arkansas area (the self-styled “folk music capital of the world”), the band actually started in a gravel yard, one of many venues in the town’s lively bluegrass scene. As Aaron Farris, the band’s cofounder and upright bass player, explains, “The cool thing about it is, you can come from anywhere, bring your acoustic instrument, and on a Friday or Saturday night, they have jams all over town…[the] group started playing in an actual gravel yard there; one by one we started picking up players, then the locals and visitors started asking, ‘Is the “gravel yard band” gonna be around?'” Thus an informal gathering of players started to gel into a distinct musical entity known as The Gravel Yard. They began amassing a steady following and playing larger and larger venues.
Like the many shades to be found among the stones of an actual gravel yard, the band’s sound is best be described as an eclectic amalgamation of hard-driving traditional bluegrass, country soul and vivid Americana, with rock undertones. Their second album, Strange Times, brings an updated lineup representing these different colors. Joining Aaron as Mountainview natives and traditional bluegrass enthusiasts are Tiffany Turner on banjo and Titus Turner on mandolin. Lead singer Christopher Denny brings a folk/Americana sensibility and a unique, almost old-timey vocal sound. Fiddle player Cliff Prowse and guitarist Matt Clampit provide the bluesy rock tones. All together, The Gravel Yard is a bluegrass group the melds a lot of styles together into a rich, ear-pleasing mixture.
Apart from their freshly unique arrangement of the Bill Monroe classic, “Dark Hollow” and “West Virginia My Home” by Hazel Dickens, the rest of the album is all original music. With so many perspectives coming together in the band, their approach to writing music is one that starts singularly and then expands, as Aaron explains. “A lot of what you hear on this album, one person did the majority of the writing and then would bring it to the group and we would all give our treatment to it. So, like, ‘Strange Times,’ the first track, is a song I actually wrote a long time ago…” The lyrics of the older song fit well with the recent pandemic situation everyone found themselves in, so the band took it and ran with it. “It’s kind of a thrill ride…I’t topsy-turvy…you don’t really know what’s gonna happen next…”
Aaron sums up Strange Times this way: “If your a diehard traditional bluegrass fan, I think we’ve got enough of that, to where you’re gonna enjoy it. If you’re interested in stuff that’s little more eclectic, you should find something that you would like on this album.”
By Dan Walsh