Album Review of
If It Wasn't for Longing

Written by Joe Ross
March 29, 2024 - 12:08pm EDT
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From Pennsylvania, Serene Green’s first album, Have at It, peaked at #5 on The Roots Music Report's Top 50 Bluegrass Album Chart in March 2020. Formed in 2017 by Quentin Fisher (mandolin), Michael Johnson (guitar), Steve Leonard (banjo) and Shane McGeehan (bass), the band now also includes Katelynn Casper (fiddle). All members but Steve Leonard contribute vocals. The album’s band photo, however, appears to be missing their mascot, the dog named Watson.

This band has a lot of energetic drive and precocious exuberance, so I wouldn’t say they’re so serene or green --- tranquil, calm, inexperienced or naïve as their band name may facetiously imply. Rather, the band’s music is quite grassy, verdant and countrified with a rural and regional Pennsylvania flavor. Perhaps Busy Indigo or Bustling Blue more appropriately describes their eclectic repertoire of traditional, contemporary and original material.

On If It Wasn’t for Longing, Serene Green presents an illustrious set comprised of six covers and six originals. They do a fine job of personalizing songs from Randy Newman, Dolly Parton, Billy Cole, Del McCoury, Bobby Bond and Jimmy Skinner. Those tracks will garner considerable airplay, but I think some of their more luxuriant material stems from their own pens --- songs like Back to Appalachia, Find Someone Who Will, Holding You Closely, If It Wasn’t For Longing. The mandolinist penned a bouncy “Carbon County Breakdown,” and the banjo-player drives his own snappy little instrumental number, “Rough Patch”. So far, If It Wasn’t for Longing has reached #16 on The Roots Music Report's Top 50 Bluegrass Album Chart (back on 24 Feb 24), and it could go even higher. (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)