The end we hope for might be perpetually deferred. The Way Down Wanderers seem to recognize this idea on the new album More Like Tomorrow. The songwriting (a duty shared by Collin Krause and Austin Krause-Thompson) searches for a brighter way to live, but it never neglects the struggles of getting there. When Krause-Thompson sings, “Well, I’ll be home tonight / But it’s more like tomorrow,” that hope persists even as we travel indefinitely toward sanctuary. This third album sometimes lands peacefully but always offers hope for the next day.
The quintet blends bluegrass tradition with a broader sense of pop and Americana, with a rootsiness as present in the vocals and harmonies as in the banjo or mandolin. Much of the album works plays comfortably, but the Wanderers do their best while working in little flourishes or touches of misdirection. “The Wire” finds the link between Appalachian and pop without relying on the tropes of either, a good representation of the group at their finest.
The apparent ease of the music allows for a quick embrace of the group’s drive toward tomorrow. This look toward the future comes out of a challenging past, though. In “Parkside Drive”, Krause deals with his alcohol issues and the pain he feels over a neighbor who committed suicide. While he might be “sober now”, he still goes through the process of “forgiving myself slow”. The two issues converge in a way that grounds the album in our hardships and opportunity for growth.
A vital part of the process includes acknowledging the rough patches, as the group considers in “Hard Times”. The song’s a bit odd but effective in its joyful embrace of the idea that “We don’t have to be happy all the time / We don’t have to hide from hard times.” “Hiding”, which embraces a funkier, spacier sound (still within reach of jam band material), pairs well with that cut. Here Krause-Thompson speaks of how he’s come out of a more personal sort of hiding, awakening to pursue a fuller life.
With these kinds of ideas at the fore, it makes sense that the Way Down Wanderers would touch on issues of spirituality. They make references to vague praying or dismissing traditional religious conceits before settling on the titular idea from “Love Is My Gospel”. The band stumble on this one as Krause wanders around loose ideas of finding peace in romantic love and simplicity, but then, recognizing that not everyone is as privileged as he is, he works to move on from his sympathy without reckoning with it. He sings, “Love your neighbor as yourself and try not to stress that their curse is your blessing.” Formally, the transition through the song makes very little sense, and ethically the closing line just puts laziness ahead of any real thoughts of change or aid.
The album, though, doesn’t strive for the sort of complexity that “Love Is My Gospel” would really require. It does engage honestly with the struggles of living while searching for a brighter way forward. The Way Down Wanderers don’t suggest easy answers, but they do find a sort of rest in their own self-development and in the connections they make, and sometimes you just need a good, solid listen.