CD Review: Trampled By Turtles, Stars and Satellites

If you’re a regular folkie at the Winnipeg Folk Fest, you may already be familiar with the pride of Northern Minnesota, Trampled By Turtles. The progressive bluegrass quintet from Duluth brought their devilishly fast brand of energetic folk/bluegrass to Winnipeg this past summer at Folk Fest 2011. If you checked them out there, or are familiar with their previous releases — like 2010’s Palomino — you might be pleasantly surprised by what you find in their latest release, Stars and Satellites.

Recorded in a log home just outside of Duluth, Trampled By Turtles’ new album marks a distinct departure for the band. Guitarist/Vocalist Dave Simonett explained that the band “wanted to make a record that breathes,” adding that “musically we wanted to step out of our comfort zone.”

Listeners are left with is a warm-sounding album, filled more with slow ballads than the frenetic songs audiences have come to expect. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but, having enjoyed their music for the first time during their Folk Fest set, I must admit I was expecting more of the same. Despite my preconceptions, Stars and Satellites did not disappoint.

Fans of Trampled By Turtles will likely enjoy the new journey the band embarks on here. Their musicianship remains as sharp as ever, and I rather enjoyed the change of pace. On the other hand, if you were only fascinated with Trampled By Turtles’ face-melting banjo licks and feverish fiddle playing, you might be in for a bit of a let down.

It’s for this reason that I would not recommend this album for people who have yet to experience Trampled By Turtles, live or otherwise. Their new album is good, but you will better appreciate the departure if you’ve experienced their earlier material. I would have to recommend getting a good feel for where the Trampled By Turtles have planted their roots, before exploring how they’ve grown.

Four stars out of five