I’ve Got A Thing About Doors proves that, in 2011, a band can still record a pretty traditional bluegrass album using all new songs. On this enjoyable album, Cedar Hill even manages the honor of debuting a recording of the last song Jimmy Martin wrote, “A Little Bit More.” This is Frank Ray’s Cedar Hill, the 44-year-old Ozark-based band, not Duck Adkins’ 35-year-old Cedar Hill from Atlanta. Even though the latter has quite a reputation for humor, Frank’s bunch is no slouch, adding a silly voice-over from Tom T. and Dixie Hall at the end of their title track and concluding the project with the how-not-to instructions of “Just Wanna Write A Bluegrass Song.” That is one of three titles from Cedar Hill’s resonator guitar player Ferrell Stowe.
Ray, who plays mandolin and sings, composed or co-wrote four of the songs, including “Broke Hearts Are Real,” a fine neo-traditional piece, with bass player Earon Adams. In addition to Martin and the Halls, Cedar Hill provides a sincere rendition of Mark Brinkman’s “With Love From Normandy,” the least traditional cut on I’ve Got a Thing About Doors. Ray’s associates, Dave Haverstick and Charlene Sumney, delivered the remaining three new songs.
Cedar Hill is traditional in the significant sense that they model from the first generation and are little influenced by the bass-heavy, trio and quartet vocal style so popular for the last thirty years. At their quite enjoyable best, the band puts old ideas in new vessels to excellent effect. Haverstick’s “Already Gone” receives one of the most interesting arrangements with Stanley Brothers-influenced vocals over Monrovian music featuring the fiddling of guest Tim Crouch.
The Halls radio-friendly title track, in fact, achieves a real Cedar Hill sound that doesn’t resemble anyone else. The band does that again on Ray’s “Whose Gonna Pray.” They could use more of this, for sometimes they sound more like Cedar Hill sounding like a traditional star more than sounding like themselves. For example, “Nails And Thorns” could be slipped right on to a Dave Evans release. That aside, I’ve Got A Thing About Doors proves a solid disc of original, traditional bluegrass. (Blue Circle Records, P.O. Box 681286, Franklin, TN 37068, www.bluecirclerecords.com.) AM