The country music revolution is here, and it seems like everywhere you turn, fresh faces and promising voices are sprouting up with a more traditional sound and an emphasis on songwriting that gets you downright giddy for what the future holds. At or near the top of any list of the most promising hopefuls is the sister trio of Ellie (lead guitar), Powell (banjo), and Lily (vocals), known collectively as The Castellows.
They’ll break your heart before you even hear a note, and then when they break into harmony, they’ll break your heart again. Originally from Georgia, this is no pop country project run through songwriting sessions with Music Row’s biggest hitmakers or paired with the city’s top producers. The Castellows write their own songs, play their own instruments, and came to a major label already surging in popularity, allowing them to sign their own autonomous imprint and publishing deal.
Their new EP A Little Goes A Long Way is one of those whose songs will likely feed into a bigger LP in the future. But similar to the recent EP from another surging artist, Wyatt Flores, the importance and impact of this band is too significant to sit back and wait to size up.
One of the cool things about The Castellows is that they come with an element of darkness that contrasts with their natural beauty, creating a vector of intrigue and mystery into these sisters and their music. The imagery belies some of the depth of the lyricism and the strong adherence to country’s roots. Their song “I Know It’ll Never End” sounds like something you could hear buried in The Carter Family catalog, for example.
“Hurricane” is the only cover song from the seven song set, and a smart pick to instill some of that darkness into this collection. Though originally a country hit for Leon Everette in 1981, the song has recently been covered by Band of Heathens as well as Shane Smith and the Saints. No matter where these ladies picked it up, it shows a depth of knowledge that you like to see, and was a fan favorite when the sisters got their start releasing videos on social media.
What makes The Castellows so important is their potency at attracting young and wider audiences to more rootsy music. As they like to tout, they’re both traditional and modern. That comes through in a song like “The Part Where You Break My Heart,” whose melody and approach remind you of a Zach Bryan cut, but with tighter writing and an actual lyrical hook. It was probably helped by Rhett Akins coming in with one of the few outside contributions to this EP.
Trina Shoemaker as producer may not be a name immediately recognizable by mainstream fans. But she’s worked with many important women of country in the past, including Emmylou Harris, Tanya Tucker, and Nancy Griffith. She is also one of the few female producers and engineers in the business. Shoemaker gives little to second guess, though with the acoustic and rootsy approach of this music, it would be nice to hear a couple more instrumental breaks.
The music seems to call for more robust instrumentation, while some of the songs and the EP overall seem to go by too quickly. One of the standouts of the set is “Heartline Hill” solely written by Ellie, in part due to the enhanced instrumentation of a pronounced banjo bed and lead guitar solo.
But of course the centerpiece remains the singing harmonies of these three sisters that evoke the very elemental roots of country music, awakening something that is both delightfully arcane yet eternally relevant, and heretofore, has remained virtually unappeased in the popular country appetite. The Castellows are here to satisfy that craving, and though still perhaps a little nascent and searching for their perfect sound, they are bursting with promise and talent evidenced in the present tense with this EP.
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