• Sylvie Marie

Instant Bingo - 'Before You Were Born'


Hailing from Philadelphia, Instant Bingo describes themselves as a “Hyper Folk-Rock Family Band". The band boasts diverse and dense vocal and instrumental abilities from 9 family members. Fronting the band are married couple Ben and Sarah Drake who are also the lead songwriters. They are joined by their Sister Sheryl Marshall on backup vocals, Cousin Kevin Kelly on Bass and backup vocals; Brother Luke Drake, drums; Father Dave Drake, lead guitar 1; Brother Uri Frazier, lead guitar 2; Uncle Darrell Jennings, electric mandolin/banjo; and Brother Jon Chin on fiddle. Their new album “Before You Were Born” explores life experiences before Ben and Sarah's daughter was born.

The 10 song CD opens with the song "Jeremiah". "Jeremiah" is a riveting start with muted chords in sixtieth rhythms and melodic electric guitar and fiddle playing in short melodic phrases as if in conversation with each other. There’s an immediate bluegrass, Americana feel. "Jeremiah" is a deeply moving story inside a song and front singer Ben sings it with a clear tone, great diction and a genuine expressiveness. The story is about a young man who befriends an old man named Jeremiah. As the song unfolds, themes of grief, hardship and loss come to life in lyrics that paint such a vivid picture - you can feel the old man’s pain. Even more impressive is how the songwriting observes humanity without judgement. “And then the end times were hard with pain; his beard grew out, his voice would strain. Dragons and skulls tattooed to his arms, stretched regret linked to his charm.”

"Feathers" is up next with a mid-tempo acoustic ballad with rhythm guitar at its heart for a real folk-rock vibe. This song opens up with two lovers sitting on a front porch on a summer night. The lyrics contemplate the small moments that we cherish as well as the ups and downs and the hope we still have for the future. The song’s chorus is stellar. “Well maybe we can be happy. We can fly higher than the pine trees, but lower than the sun. And that way help will come when our wings give up and our feathers drop to the earth.” Highlights include gorgeous and extraordinary fiddle solos and nice harmonies.

Check out the video of “Feathers”:

Track five is another gem. Titled “The Musconetcong River” with lead vocals by Sarah Drake and harmonies and backup vocals by Sister Sheryl. Sarah’s voice is subtle and expressive and the two women sound amazing together. The song has a strong folk flavor with delicate syncopated guitar chords fleshed out with light percussion. The music is as charming as a small, quiet rural town. “The Musconetcong River is strong. It flows to where our souls begin” - and so does the music of Instant Bingo.

A quirky fact about Instant Bingo is that they like to write songs about their favorite films. In Song 7,“Harrison”, you hear cars and sirens and dogs barking. A man’s voice shouts “I didn’t kill my wife!” He answered by another voice that says, “I don’t care.” Guitars start strumming and voices sing in harmony, “Run Harrison.” As the song commences, you realize it’s about a movie, The Fugitive, and it’s laced with comedic moments as they sing “prosthetic arms are the clue….run Harrison!” The song quickly becomes a sing-a-long and puts a smile on your face.

Another stand-out is “Shimmering Droid” which shimmers with finger-flying acrobatic fiddle playing that lays down the foundation brilliantly. The song explores fear and confidence.

Instant Bingo is an amazing folk band, sometimes hyper, sometimes calm, but always engaging. . In “Before You Were Born” Ben and Sarah Drake, along with their 7 family members, have given the world 10 songs rich in originality, expression, intelligence and stunning musical ability. This is a band that should be on every folk-lover's playlist. The band’s cohesiveness and musical communication is deeper than the The Musconetcong River that they so lovingly sing about - it is in their blood. It would not surprise me if Instant Bingo becomes the next big family on the world folk stage.

For more information on Instant Bingo, visit their website

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