Free Range Pickin',
Free Range Pickin'
(Driving, 2004)

Free Range Pickin's self-titled release is a great-sounding project produced by members Steve and Geoff Schley (Minneapolis-born brothers), who play mandolin and guitar, respectively, and their St. Paul childhood friends, Tony Ihrig on banjo and Dan Christensen on bass. This is the band's second release, following their From the Other Side of the Fence debut album in 2002.

Eleven of the 12 selections on this album are originals by either Steve or Tony, including "Not Easy for Leaving," "The Waiting," "Dirty Old Rag," "What a Place," "Let's Take the Long Way," "Pastor Flaps" and "Good Side of Bad Things." All of the songs have a good sound, in that there is something fresh and new yet very familiar about them. The group tends to lean on the side of newgrass, but they also have some traditional flecks in their selections on this album.

The arrangements of the music definitely appeal to those looking for something that crosses many genres in acoustic music, sometimes even bordering on rock and pop. However, the instrumentation stays the same: traditional bluegrass instruments played in fine style, although the mandolin could most certainly use some tuning on almost all of its breaks.

Despite the tuning problems, the self-titled album by Free Range Pickin' is recommended for a majority of original music (which is rare these days) and the band's use of a 6-foot chicken as its mascot.

- Rambles
written by Paulette Isaacs
published 18 June 2005