Through time comes change. After two years of refining its sound and lineup, Lexington jamgrassers Restless Leg String Band return with "Bigger Than a Feeling," the long- awaited follow-up to 2016’s self-titled debut, out July 4.
Although "Bigger Than a Feeling" is the band’s sophomore album, it features many firsts. The record is the studio introduction for banjo player Jonathan Bramel, a Louisville transplant who’s long performed with Restless Leg live. It also marks the departure of mandolin player Alex Guagenti, who took an engineering job in Virginia earlier this spring. Bramel now joins Casen Baumgardner on guitar, Ishi Wooton on fiddle and Joe Schlaak on bass to solidify the foursome.
The project also marked Restless Leg’s first trip into Lexington’s Sneak Attack Studios, working alongside producer Jason Groves. The connection was fostered following a recommendation from Wooton, who had recorded in the studio before with punkabilly artist NP Presley.
However, despite the new elements present on the album, Bramel says the biggest challenge was making the songs more concise. To accomplish that, the group opted to record all of the album’s instrumentals separate from lyrics, allowing for laser sharp focus on the precision and timing of solos and other key moments within each song.
With most all of "Bigger Than a Feeling" being songs the band has played out and experimented with extensively live, the group was more than familiar with the songs' lyrical content. But measuring solos and instrumentals down in the studio from their jammy, drawn out live counterparts presented the biggest hurdle.
“We knew what we wanted to do, it was just a matter of getting the song without singing the lyrics as a guide,” Bramel said.
“Having to do the songs in a concise way made us think a lot more about how we play a song instead of just playing parts of a song in order without getting down to who goes where,” added Wooton.
In working to shorten the songs for the record, the group not only cleaned up its sound but came up with new ideas to implement in its live show, such as adding an intro and outro to the tune “I Can Breathe.” Wooton says that the band has always had a thrashy sound about it, but the time between albums has allowed the group to focus on cleaning up members' individual picking and playing, resulting in a much more polished and professional sounding product.
“I remember listening back to old shows of ours and hearing drums when there were no drums,” said Wooton. “We still have those thrashy elements, but we’re much more polished now as well.”
Restless Leg String Band will bring its refined sound to The Burl on July 4 to celebrate the release of "Bigger Than a Feeling," bringing musical fireworks of its own to the Distillery District as the nearby downtown skyline is illuminated in a sea of literal fireworks.
Baumgardner said the album’s release, combined with a Fourth of July celebration, should make for a memorable night that truly is “bigger than a feeling.”
“To quote Ishi [Wooton]’s song ‘Have A Good Time,’ ‘It’s Bigger Than A Feeling / We got a lot of work to do / But I just wanna have a good time,’” said Baumgardner. “We’re on a never ending journey with our friends and fans riding the sound of our wave, and it means the world to us celebrating this milestone with them."
IF YOU GO
Restless Leg String Band
What: Album release show for "Bigger Than A Feeling" with Dark Moon Hollow, The Mad Gravity and Vivian Leigh.
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday
Where: The Burl, 375 Thompson Road