Allow me to clarify how to pronounce The Last Bison’s new album, VA: Don’t pronounce it literally, but rather like Virginia, which is what the abbreviation stands for. The name is fitting considering the deep roots the record has in Virginia. A band of seven members that consist of family members and friends, they came together in Southeastern Virginia to make music reminiscent of the history and culture that runs deep within one of the country’s oldest states.
A considerably larger band, the fact that most of them contribute multiple instruments only adds to their sound. Creating the band’s rich, layered style of rock is their use of guitar, banjo, cello, drums, bass, keyboard, bells, and the list continues on. But honestly, I would be ignoring a crucial part of the album if I didn’t mention the masterful violin played by Teresa Totheroh. Lead singer Ben Hardesty’s tenor voice is surprisingly slightly raspy, but ultimately charming. Backing vocals are precise, perfectly contrasting Hardesty’s raw vocal with a soft female harmony.
The lead single off the album, “Every Time,” is a fun, upbeat song with heavy open-sounding drums, bells and chant-like background vocals. Continuing with thumping drums, “Cypress Queen” also features tense, sliding vocals over a catchy violin line. Discreet piano, wavering cymbals, and a building guitar peacefully introduce “Sleep,” prefacing Hardesty’s whisper, soft bells, guitar, and violin, that eventually crescendos into pounding drums and a belted voice. Hauntingly beautiful, “Come What May” phenomenally displays the violin. The song builds and drops with intensity, ending with lush vocals and piano that eerily ornate the exquisite violin and cello duet that flourishes and then drops to a melancholy end.
Despite their size and the fact that they also suffered the loss of their major record label, they continue to come together flawlessly. The Last Bison have done a fabulous job staying true to their sound and they leave no room to question their musical bond. There isn’t a better way of putting it: The music is astonishingly beautiful.