The key to The Strumbella's latest album, Hope, is to remember they began as a mostly a cappella act. Harmonies were the important element and as the band has grown, as they have played bigger stages, and as they have added more instrumentation and production to their sound they have still managed to prioritize the core element of harmony.
The studio add-ons are there to service the voices of Simon Ward, David Ritter, Jon Hembrey, Izzy Ritchie, Darryl James and Jeremy Drury; there is no room for solos in this band, (the track "David" may be the exception as it does have a great Sadies' guitar twang running off of it).
However because of the dominance of the choir of voices there is a similarity right across Hope that dilutes its power somewhat. Not a necessarily a bad thing at all and well, considering their recent success, its most definitely not a bad thing at all for their pockets or popularity.
The key to getting The Strumbellas is to see them live. Whether they are singing in a cafe, on a TV late night show or on a stage. The harmonics extend into the relationships and on stage is where it all comes together. The Strumbellas are an exuberant force and that harmony comes across as a gang of friends having the time of their lives, (witness their near stage collapsing performance at Guelph's Hillside Festival, around the 42 sec.).
It is noteworthy too the Strumbellas are yet another band from the Black Grass scene, one which travels across the Kawarthas, the Northumberland Hills and along the Oak Ridge Moraine. Songs are grounded in the blue grass tradition of early settlers, the roots music found in the same vein as Blue Rodeo, Wilco and The Band. Lyrically main songwriter Ward goes deeper into the malaise of survival. There are references to depression, to angst, to the dearth of reasons to stick around, to loss and to heartbreak right across the album.
But there is Hope isn't there, there is always hope. The Strumbellas' Hope rests in the camaraderie of an end of day camp fire, in the cold of a night, singing, one voice added onto the one voice.