I’ve started and deleted this review more time than I can count. Seriously, what can I say about Billy Strings’ 2019 Rounder release Home that hasn’t already been mentioned at this point? Billy Strings, aka William Apostol’s sophomore release comes two years after his “Turmoil and Tinfoil” debut, and certainly was one of the most anticipated releases by those in the know. I wasn’t in the know enough to realize what I was missing at the time, but I’ll be damned if I’m not getting up to speed just as fast as I can.
At this point, I think the secret is out. Billy Strings is one of the hottest concert tickets out there right now, often selling out within minutes. There’s a good reason. Apostol is probably the most enchanting guitar picker I’ve heard in years. His playing is melodic and abstract, often at the same time. He’s an exploratory and explosive player that will leave you shaking your head and smiling. Smiling a lot. Apostol and band — Billy Failing, Royal Masat and Jarrod Walker — have taken the bluegrass/jam community by storm. Myself included. No disrespect to YMSB, or SCI, but no band has captured my love of exploratory bluegrass like Billy Strings has.
Home was my first introduction. Several friends had been raving about it since its release, but somehow I never caught the bug initially. Then, I saw a live Youtube clip of “Away From The Mire” from Adult Swim and was unequivocally blown away. I checked out a few more clips that afternoon with equal enthusiasm before diving headfirst into a digital copy of Home. From the Grateful Dead reminiscent, “Space”-like intro of “Taking Water” I was hooked. Indeed, few bands since the Grateful Dead has captured my imagination and love of improvisation as Apostol and band have.
But Billy Strings isn’t dependent on just improvisational jams. He’s also a fine songwriter and composer. Many of the songs that grace Home take on a personal introspective approach, and ultimately that’s where I think Apostol’s true super power is. That’s why people are so attracted to his music. Yes, he’s a great picker, but this is music of destination rather than just a method of travel.
Standouts for me include: “Must Be Seven”, which features Molly Tuttle; the Ronnie McCoury co-written, “Highway Hypnosis”; the simply beautiful “Watch It Fall” “Enough To Leave” and “Love Like Me”; and of course my personal highlight,: “Away From The Mire.”
There’s not a mediocre track to be found on Home. It’s about as perfect an album as I’ve heard in the past few years. A perfect blend of progressive, psychedelic Bluegrass that meets traditional styles with a healthy topping of respect for those that have come before. Perhaps most interesting is Apostle’s ability to keep his head about him as his career takes exponential growth. He, family, band and crew members contribute fairly regularly on the Facebook group, Billy Strings Fanpage (Official) as well as interacting with fans at shows. Billy Strings’ Home easily was my favorite album of 2019. (Read more here: Review: 50 Years of Chasing the Magic: 2019’s Music in Review ) It’s groundbreaking, poignant, and fun. It’s an album that’ll be discussed for a long time. https://billystrings.com/home/