Some of the best parties are the ones that weren’t even supposed to occur. Two or three friends lazily enjoy each other’s company, then another two or three join the impromptu festivities. Jokes are cracked, drinks are guzzled, and the next thing you know, it’s 3 a.m.
Celebration, Cabinet’s third studio release and seventh overall, is that kind of get-together. Initially intended to be a straight bluegrass record, the album instead emerged as the band’s most diverse release yet, which is no small statement when you consider the various genres the band has touched upon in the studio and on the stage to date. What’s remarkable, though, is that the tunes, which span the band’s eight-plus years of existence, showcase that diversity while retaining a distinct, cohesive common thread that the band deftly weaves from track to track. It barely needs to be noted at this stage in the game that the individual musicians’ playing prowess is at a high level, but what makes this a true album rather than a loose collection of unrelated songs is not those acclaimed Cabinet instrumental chops, but its time-honored writing abilities, which are in top form here. Scenes and moods are evoked, established and subtly revisited, sometimes via timeless lyrics and sometimes with just the simple turn of a musical phrase or accent.
What’s more surprising is these songs, despite their shared sensibilities, were not all written during the same period. Some have been kicking around the Cabinet catalog for some time, like “Home Now,” a live staple for the Americana outfit since its early days, which gets a relatively raucous reworking here. Others, like “Pine Billy” and “Red River,” are brand new. “Red River,” specifically, finds the band at its introspective best, a yearning, pretty tune that might pleasantly surprise some Cabinet fans.
Those long-time fans will delight in the new material, and the uninitiated will be won over, too, thanks to the warm, inviting nature of the songs and the way they’re presented sonically. Themes of home and family abound, further welcoming the listener to gather around the proverbial campfire with the band as tales are told and songs are sung. It’s a good place to be, and you’ll be mighty glad you stopped by.
Cabinet is a band with roots firmly planted in the Appalachian tradition. They wear their influences like badges, honoring the canon of roots, bluegrass, country, and folk, weaving these sounds into a patchwork Americana quilt. But this music isn’t romanticizing or rehashing the past. Cabinet makes it mark on today. The steady aim of their harmonies soar straight onto target each time, the soaring vocals giving voice to the story of each song. Their music takes the long way home, treating its listeners like passengers on a ride through scenic back roads. Their live shows are inclusive, celebratory, and community-building. Members Pappy Biondo (banjo, vocals), J.P. Biondo (mandolin, vocals), Mickey Coviello (acoustic guitar, vocals), Dylan Skursky (electric bass, double bass), Todd Kopec (fiddle, vocals), Jami Novak (drums, percussion), and newly added Josh Karis (drums, percussion) all live and love music, and aren’t afraid to show it.
Cabinet formed in 2006, bringing together players from various musical and personal backgrounds. Some of the members were barely old enough to drink legally, but their thirst for older music was unquenchable. Whether its rustic “American Beauty”-era Grateful Dead or old-timey bluegrass, Cabinet has digested it all. But that is not to say that Cabinet recreates older styles. No, this is music that might have its roots in the past, but it is current and vibrant, with a sense of celebrating the now.3