Sweet By and By's debut EP features six songs about the regrets and hopes surrounding the comings and goings of men in the lives of the band's four lead women. Despite the underlying theme of love, though, Sweet By and By isn't a collection of cute, helpless women pining about men all day. "There are some things she will not miss," bassist Liz Melvin sings on one song in welcome defiance, "Well it's your boozin' and your cheatin' and your beer-soaked kiss."
Indeed, this EP hits its stride when the band isn't trying to sound pretty. Guitarist Andrea Nell's sultry voice commands any song it leads on, but the backup vocals and Lauren Craig's fiddle playing are prone to suffer a clichéd taste for sweetness. It's easy to forgive any shortcomings, though, through Kyra Moore's intricate, pleasantly distracting banjo picking.
Together since 2005, Sweet By and By developed an identity that welcomes its audience into the world of bluegrass. While enjoyable, the EP does not fully capture the band's less self-conscious, less "pretty," altogether stronger live shows. On opening track, "Up All Night," Nell sings, "Can you spare a minute or two for me?" You should oblige with the 18-plus minutes it takes to listen to this EP, but, for now, that time would be better spent with a whole evening of Sweet By and By live.