Shining Castle Music
It’s a safe bet that in all of bluegrass music there has not been a song that mentions steel corrugators or 26-guage panels. Until now, that is, for singer/guitarist Geoff Union has corrected that omission with “Cold As Steel,” a “true life” tale rich in detail about his grandfather pilfering one such corrugator and hauling it south to Cape Fear in 1940. There, in a metaphorical sense, it reshapes his life.
That’s just one of six singularly or co-written originals the Austin, Texas-based Union includes along with two original instrumentals on his debut CD. Two of those songs are moonshiner songs, one of them, “Spirit Of 94,” probably the only bluegrass song about the Whiskey Rebellion, the other, “Lewis Redmond,” a dance-like song about a ne’er-do-well liquor seller whose neighbors remember him as the “sunshine of our lives.” Think of the latter song as a more intense “Dooley.” As with “Cold As Steel,” both are great visual songs.
More opaque is the opener, “Devil’s Card.” It’s hard to get a handle on what’s going on, but it appears someone is coming for the protagonist, and he’s waiting with a gun. What’s fascinating is the way the lyricist, Jim Harris, compresses time by cataloguing the surroundings down to the flick of a cat’s tail. That leads to the even more vague “40 Years,” a song that makes heavy use of Biblical imagery and seems to be about a life as a long struggle toward redemption. As with all the songs on this entertaining debut, you’ll need several airings to catch all the details.
Supporting Union (and his impressive guitar work) are mandolinist Billy Bright, bassists Steven Crow and Dom Fisher, banjoist Mark Maniscalco, fiddler Ricky Turpin and vocalist Christina Union. All of them give stellar performances but really shine on the Celtic-style reel, “Fannie At The Front Door,” and the gypsy jazz/Miles Davis blend of “Half Past Zero.” (Shining Castle Music, 7301 Anaqua Dr., Austin TX 78750, www.geoffunion.com.)BW