Review Summary: The only problem is, I play the banjo.
Formed in the mid nineties, Ryan Shupe and The RubberBand recorded and released several albums independently until they were signed to Capital Records in 2005. Their last independent release, Hey Hey Hey, was re-released as their major label debut with the title Dream Big. Along with the band’s usual interesting mix of bluegrass and rock, Dream Big sees the band infusing even more eclectic influences into their sound. With songs like the funk sounding Banjo Boy and Simplify, the reggae tinged Rain Falls Down, and the fast paced instrumental track, Ambush, Ryan Shupe and The RubberBand have really made it difficult to compare them to any other band.
The album opens with Banjo Boy. A song about the band’s banjo player, who, the song suggests, would be huge if only he didn’t play the banjo. The song has an interesting bluegrass/ funk feel to it that, along with the amusing lyrics, makes the song a lot of fun to listen to. Banjo Boy makes a great start to the album, showcasing both the bands formidable instrumental skill and their knack for writing fun and lighthearted lyrics.
The band follows up with Even Superman, showing the much more typical sound of the band. The RubberBand’s songs tend to follow a typical pop/rock structure with bluegrass instrumentation. The violin, banjo, and mandolin take the lead parts while the guitar usually plays rhythm parts. Even Superman is another early highlight and shows the band at their best. It manages to be a genuine and heartfelt song about venerability, despite the fact that the band is still singing about superman. The band’s biggest strength is their ability to make their music emotionally effecting while also being lighthearted and fun.
The band members are all great musicians and include a lot of extremely impressive instrumental licks that you wouldn’t see even anywhere near most country artists that they are so often lumped in with. Their skill is especially apparent on songs like Ambush and Hey Hey Hey, which showcase some awesomely frantic banjo and fiddle playing. The band is also capable of a lot of different moods and tempos, as seen on the touching ballad Dream Big and the laid back, reggae sounding, Rain Falls Down. Within just eleven songs, the band displays a large amount of skill and variety.
You can tell the band really enjoys what they do and has a lot of fun making their music. They do a great job producing fun, entertaining music while still making it possible to take them seriously due to the fact that their songs are still interesting to listen to. Dream Big is an extremely varied outing that never feels gimmicky or unfocused. The band never gets tripped up on all the different moods and sounds because they’re simply having fun and don’t take themselves too seriously. The lyrics and themes aren’t terribly deep and are downright juvenile at times. However, with Dream Big, Ryan Shupe and The RubberBand have made a great rock/county/bluegrass album that can be easily enjoyed by fans of music in general.