Jonathan Warren and The Billygoats are the kind of band you can expect to be clever with a cover of "Wagon Wheel." The Boise bluegrass trio does well to avoid typical Appalachian or Western curriculum on its fourth release, 2013's On This Very Evening. The album feels more campfire-side than barnburner, but it's thankfully not a collection of jam sessions. The carefully orchestrated tunes indulge in offbeat elements, like the sultry horn and cello in "Living Room" and the moody violin on "Coin Toss." The latter may be the best track on the album for highlighting what Warren and his Goats do best and should do more of: ditch the forced twang and focus on storytelling—any excuse to hear those great vocal harmonies resurface.
"She knows she's going to heaven 'cause she's been through hell," Warren sings on "Partly Cloudy," and lyrical nuggets like this are hidden throughout Evening. Compared to 2011's A Little Something Stronger Than Wine, the band is having more fun musically and especially lyrically, as Warren's pen seems to move easier than his rough and rambling voice. The Idaho musicians might never sell out arenas a la the Avett Brothersthough let's hope they do. For now, their intimate style is what makes them so captivating.
Jonathan Warren and The Billygoats play the Top Hat Fri., June 20, at 10 PM. Free.