Album Review – Family Shiloh’s “At the Cold Copper Ranch”

There’s just something inspiring and wholesome about a good ‘ol fashioned family band. Most of us feel lucky if we can get the kiddos rounded up in the car and with matching shoes to haul them down to the local Chili’s for supper. Meanwhile, family bands display such instrumental skill and discipline, you can’t help but to be envious, and entertained.

But with this album, Family Shiloh isn’t running through folk and bluegrass standards, relying on the advanced skill of the teenagers and the cuteness of the youngest members to earn your applause. This conceptualized work of all original songs centers around the real life Cold Copper Ranch in Burnet County, Texas, which is the home of the Cold Copper Cattle Company, or 4C for short, specializing in longhorn cattle. It’s not like any other family band album you’ve heard.

Colby and Kimberly Pennington have been performing as a husband-and-wife duo since 1997. As their five children began to show up and were old enough to start contributing, the family band came into form, now with guitarist and harmonica player Jonah Pennington (19), fiddle and piano player Chloe Pennington (17), fiddle and harmony singer Adeline (15), Patience on steel guitar (12), Amelie on fiddle and cello (10), and even some in-laws here and there helping bring Family Shiloh to life.

I know what you’re thinking: gee this all sounds very upstanding and all, but how about the music? At The Cold Copper Ranch is an entertaining and surprisingly diverse record that ranges from traditional country, to Western, to even some more Outlaw and country rock material, keeping you engaged and enthused through the 15 tracks. If you’re a fan of the cowboy songs of Corb Lund and Colter Wall, you’ll get a hoot out of this one.

“Dunn Lucky Dice” sounds like a song cowboys were singing 100 years ago, and could be singing 100 years from now, with some really tasty guitar complimenting it. The multi-part harmonies and steel guitar of the “Cold Copper Theme” sends you straight to the 1940s and country’s Golden Era. But “The Last Herd” sounds like something recorded in the 70s, and “Delta Lucky Ace” could be from the 90s, though it all fits together smarty, with each song telling a small piece of the Cold Copper Ranch story.

And even though the majority of what you hear is the work of Family Shiloh, and all the songs are written by the Pennington family themselves, they did employ the efforts of a few musical ringers on this album just to make sure everything was done as best as it could be. Produced by Steve Chadie, along with Billy Horton whose known most recently for all those Charley Crockett records, they brought in electric and pedal steel guitarist Dave Biller, along with the immortal Mickey Raphael and others to make sure the story of the Coal Copper Ranch was done right.

The deeper you get into the album, it does begin to sound a little … well … local, if that makes sense, and some of the drum parts sound a bit processed, like they were added afterwards. This is not a band that plays 280 shows a year, and of course, the younger siblings are still learning, so there is a curve they should be considered upon.

But if you love family bands, yet are a little worn out on the super rigid, almost robotic approach of some of them that lacks originality, this Family Shiloh project may be right up your alley. At The Cold Copper Ranch gives you some good songs to take away from it, and gets you looking forward to what this clan has in store in the future.

1 1/2 Guns Up

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