Dream Big is the major label debut for Ryan Shupe & the Rubberband. Previously, they have self-released four CDs in their own label Tydal Wave Records, including a wonderful live album (2001's Live). This Provo, Utah, quintet consists of Roger Archibald (guitar, vocals), Colin Botts (bass, vocals), Craig Miner (banjo, bouzouki, guitar, mandolin, vocals), Bart Olson (drums), and Ryan Shupe (lead vocals, fiddle, mandolin, guitar).
They are part pop/rock band and part jam band. In concert, these guys perform one of the most energetic shows I've seen. They truly look like they enjoy playing. In addition, the songs are uplifting and positive.
Three of the 11 songs on Dream Big are found on 1999's album Simplify (Simplify, New Emotion, and Banjo Boy). The other eight songs are all new. Banjo Boy seems to be a new recording with a more upbeat tempo. This country-banjo rap drips of bravado:
The first four songs to open the album are my favorites on the album, but the album as a whole is strong and features catchy songs. Dream Big is an uplifting anthem that will cheer anyone up. Ambush is a rocking instrumental driven by the exchange between the fiddle and banjo. Simplify is another banjo-driven rap about living in the modern world.
There are two worries when a unique independent band signs with a major label. First is how much artistic control they will retain. I am pleased to report that the spirit of the band remains in their Capitol/EMI release. Vocals and banjo are still prominent in the mix. Second is finding the band being chewed up and spit out after a few years. (See, for example, Martin Sexton, Nields, and Dan Bern). Only time will tell if this becomes of Ryan Shupe & the Rubberband. In the meantime, I wish them the best and hope they reach a wider audience with Capitol/EMI Records behind them. They certainly deserve it.
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