About five or so years ago, Mark Rast heard that a bluegrass band he’d never seen before was coming to Lancaster Dispensing Company.
It was Colebrook Road, and he was immediately taken by the band’s vocalist/guitarist Jesse Eisenbise and mandolin player Wade Yankey.
“Jesse and Wade have this rhythm together that just works really well,” Rast said. “I thought, I’d like to put the banjo on top of that.”
Rast introduced himself to the band and casually joined Eisenbise during a few jam sessions. When Colebrook Road’s previous banjo player decided to leave the group, Rast filled the spot. The band is rounded out by Jeff Campbell on bass and vocals and Joe McAnulty on fiddle and vocals.
Things clicked immediately. They played major festivals, won prominent bluegrass contests and eventually signed a record deal.
In May, Colebrook Road released “On Time,” its first record on Mountain Fever Records. This weekend, the band will celebrate the album’s vinyl pressing with a show at Zoetropolis.
Rast is one of two of the band’s members who live in Lancaster. The others live in Harrisburg, Middletown and Hummelstown.
Rast’s love of bluegrass dates back to the early ’70s when he saw the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band perform on “American Bandstand.” When he saw John McEuen’s inspired banjo playing, he asked for the album “Uncle Charlie and His Dog” for Christmas. Shortly after, he got “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.” (He even met McEuen recently, after his Long’s Park performance in June.)
“After I heard that, I was hooked,” Rast says.
He also plays in Americana band Vinegar Creek Constituency. While Rast also enjoys his time with that group, Colebrook Road gives him an outlet to play more hard-driving, traditional sounding bluegrass.
And it seems to be a hit with audiences, too. Colebrook Road has won several competitions, including the 2016 D.C. Bluegrass Union’s Mid-Atlantic Bluegrass band contest, the 2015 Podunk Bluegrass Festival band contest, the 2014 Watermelon Park Fest band contest and the 2011 Pickin’ in the Panhandle band contest.
“On Time” is the group’s third album, following a self-titled in 2012 and “Halfway Between” in 2016. Colebrook Road recorded the newest release in Willis, Virginia, in just two and a half days.
“It was really great to record in a studio that has recorded tons of bluegrass artists, and the engineers and producers knew bluegrass,” Rast says.
He says bluegrass artist Amanda Cook helped them achieve a more polished sound.
“She was a huge help in tidying up the vocals,” Cook says.
Their efforts paid off, as the album debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard bluegrass chart. The album was off of the chart for a few weeks, but as of Saturday, it’s back on at No. 15.
And, it’s also achieved some significant radio airplay.
“The nice part of being with a label is they promote your music,” Rast says. “They get it out to the DJs. And bluegrass, there’s still a lot of people who listen to internet stations, and Sirius XM Bluegrass Junction, they played it a lot. That helped us a huge amount.”
All the positive attention has been a pleasant surprise for the band.
“We were literally shocked. ... I mean, we were happy, but wow,” Rast says.
The album’s original tracks were primarily written by Eisenbise.
“Jesse’s songwriting has really developed over the last couple of years,” Rast says. “There’s some real heartfelt songs on it.”
And the band’s music has continued to evolve instrumentally and in cohesiveness, Rast says.
There’s also an original arrangement of Paul Simon’s “Boy in the Bubble.”
“That was a lot of work and a lot of fun, and it really works out,” Rast says. “And Jesse’s voice is just perfect for singing the song.”
Rast expects to play every song from “On Time” at Zoetropolis, but not in the order they appear on the album. The show will include two sets, which will give audiences a feel for what the band will play at its many festival gigs this summer. He says bluegrass festivals are particularly fun for their communal nature and the general friendliness of everyone, both musicians and attendees.
“We’re going to try to re-create that atmosphere at our show at Zoetropolis,” Rast says.