What’s for certain is that we’re living in the era of Billy Strings. What this young man and his band are doing right now when they step up to the microphones in municipalities all across the country is other-worldly. You want to compare it to Jimi Hendrix, or The Grateful Dead or Phish in their prime, or perhaps J.D. Crow and The New South when Tony Rice was in the band. But these may not even be apt comparisons. Billy Strings is just that good.
Of course capturing that electric magic in the studio is another matter, just like most any band that works without a net. That’s not to bag on Billy’s recorded output, but it certainly presents a unique challenge, and one he will tackle again with his new record Renewal set to be released on September 24th.
“I called my last record ‘Home,’ and then a few months later that’s where we all got stuck,” says Strings. “Right now, we’re heading back into opening back up, and doing some more touring with real concerts and real shows. Hopefully we can renew everything. I think it’s an interesting word. It reminds me of how every morning is a renewed day and another chance.”
Billy String is one of those few artists who saw his star catch flame during the pandemic, putting on some now legendary streaming shows, and walking away with a Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album. Pairing with producer Jonathan Wilson, he’ll try to keep that momentum going.
“After winning the Grammy, I went into the studio with newfound confidence. And was inspired by Jonathan’s studio and vibe. More than ever before, I trusted myself to experiment and push myself musically … I’ve learned, you’ve just got to let the song do its thing. So that’s what I try to do—write songs and let them come out however they do.”
Billy Strings has a writing credit on 13 of Renewal‘s 16 songs, and he worked with his road band ion banjoist Billy Failing, bassist Royal Masat, and Jarrod Walker on mandolin. He also brought in guests John Mailander on fiddle, and Spencer Cullum Jr. on pedal steel. Though the foundation will still be bluegrass, folks who’ve followed Billy Strings for a while know elements of rock, heavy metal, and psychedelic music will work their way into the mix.
“I listen to this album now and it’s emotional,” Strings says. “I could sit there and tweak it forever, but there’s a point where it’s like building a house of cards. Yeah, I could add an extra tower on top, but it might collapse. I’ve always doubted myself, and I still do, but this album makes me think, ‘Hey, you’re doing all right, kid. You just need to keep going.’”
Renewal is now available for pre-order, and the new song “Fire Line” can be heard below.
1. Know It All
3. Love and Regret
4. Heartbeat of America
5. In The Morning Light
6. This Old World
7. Show Me The Door
9. Red Daisy
10. The Fire On My Tongue
11. Nothing’s Working
12. Hide and Seek
13. Ice Bridges
14. Fire Line
15. Running The Route