River Valley Rangers

Rolling plains, crackling campfires, and late night string sessions are just some of the scenes that float into one’s mind when absorbing one of Midwestern quartet River Valley Rangers’ forthright compositions. Throughout their 5 year tenure, the group has remained a steadfast contributor to the “newgrass” genre through their inventive, free-flowing flatpicking styles and arrangements, all the while paying omnipresent homage to the pioneers of the conventional bluegrass style. While the traditional instrumentation of their songs resounds with familiarity, the techniques they employ––rhythmic changes, melodic sequences, breakdowns, improvised jamming––yield an ever-evolving sonic landscape, rippled with nods to more orthodox offerings from within the realm.

The Rangers, comprised of Mark Messer (mandolin, vocals), Jesse Beilfuss (upright bass, vocals), Daniel Watkins (guitar, vocals), and Ben Zorn (fiddle, vocals), followed unique paths into the world of music-making, yet each exhibit an aptitude for harmonizing, songwriting, and audience interplay. They also share a willingness to experiment: one may find an array of heterogeneous tunes in any given live set, be it a jaunty number about the simplicities of rural living, an old-time standard, or a crowd-stirring alt rock cover––the band leans into musical diversity. This characteristic is the hallmark of a repertoire that runs deep and varied, much like the colorful river beds that etch themselves into the prairies of the group’s Illinois home.

Listing influences spanning Tony Rice to Phish, thoughtful notations rip through Rangers jams, creating a dynamic sound tunnel which eagerly sweeps listeners into an experience that is both entertaining and confounding, underpinned by lightning-fast, ever-tight string maneuvering. As the River Valley Rangers continue to traverse the U.S. throughout Summer 2021, their uplifting tunes in tow, they will channel the experiences that the road’s boundless nature bestows upon them into their forthcoming EP, due out later this year. Boasting appearances with artists such as Jeremy Garrett of the Grammy award-winning The Infamous Stringdusters, Grammy award-winning The Travelin’ McCourys, and Grammy-nominated and IBMA winners Special Consensus, they continue to draw upon their peers, and the pickin’ parties they treasure hosting together, for the constant evolution and honing of their craft.