An optimistic look at life has long been a key part of The Roys’ brand of bluegrass. On their new studio album, New Day Dawning, which hits stores on August 28, the brother/sister duo continues to blend an uplifting message with a traditional sound and sibling harmonies as they take time to reflect on their own roots.
Based now in Nashville but raised in New Brunswick, Canada, Lee and Elaine Roy focus much of their attention on family throughout the seven-song set. Generally alternating who takes the lead vocal from song to song, thoughts and feelings range from those who have helped shape them to the emotions involved in dealing with the loss of loved ones. On “Windin’ Roads,” Lee plays the role of prodigal son as he returns to the place he was raised. Over a rolling acoustic rhythm section full of warm guitars and banjo, he sings with a slightly nasal twang, What I’m seein’ in my windshield / Once I saw in my rear view mirror. Elaine echoes these thoughts of belonging and upbringing on “Living Scrapbook,” a song built around a lyrical mandolin melody. Elaine’s at her best here in the revolving chorus, singing, I am who I am because each one of you truly loved me, while Lee sings in gentle harmony.
Two of the songs on New Day Dawning deal directly with a loved one’s passing. In the touching “Grandpa’s Barn,” which rises from an earthy intro of dobro and fiddle, Lee details memories packed full of emotion on a visit back to the farm. Grandpa’s old Cadillac, worn bible and dated calendar each bring fond recollections while the song’s lyrics fit the sentiment nicely. I smoked my first and last cigarette, Lee sings, remembering a time his grandfather caught him in the act before adding, then I turned John Deere green. On “Daddy To Me,” a story about his father’s funeral plays out over a slow musical procession. Though friends and family pay their respects throughout the song, Lee offers a very personal take on that special relationship, singing, To a lot of folks he’s been a lot things/But he will always be daddy to me.
Hooked into the inspirational bluegrass circuit, The Roys have earned multiple Inspirational Country Music awards over the past few years, and a sense of optimism hovers above New Day Dawning. On the title-track, Elaine maneuvers a rising and falling chorus with Lee in harmony, singing, Hope’s the beginning/That leads you on the road to living/It’s a new day dawning. There’s a warm, springtime feel to the song echoed in the fluttering mandolin of musician Andy Leftwich. Randy Kohrs also joins on the project to add his acclaimed dobro expertise. On “Still Standing,” an empowering, uptempo number and album highlight, Randy lays down a fine solo as his dobro powers the music. The song also catches the sibling harmonies at their finest, because as Elaine takes the lead, Lee’s steady complement adds new dynamic layers.
On New Day Dawning, The Roys deliver an intimate look at their family and upbringing. Even album-closer “Fast As We Roll,” which at first glance seems to fall outside the project’s core themes, in actuality pushes for people to cherish the moment and each other instead of rushing through life. It’s a meaningful parting thought, as The Roys offer an uplifting collection with a look on the bright side.
Key Tracks – “Still Standing,” “Windin’ Roads,” “New Day Dawning,” “Daddy To Me”