The problem with being a “best kept secret” is, well, remaining a secret. In a genre of music with so much talent, the step from regional favorite to national band is enormous. For Monroe, N.C.’s A Deeper Shade of Blue, they are hoping their fifth album No More Blues puts them over the top.
The 12-track effort is composed of 10 songs written by bandmembers and a great resonator guitar tune by Ferrell Stowe. There is just one cover, a nice rendition of the traditional “Little Bessie,” which is handled deftly. There is a nice variety throughout the album, which starts out gently with “Pretty Sights Pretty Sounds,” but really gets going on the next tune, a breakneck instrumental from mandolinist Jason Fraley called “Fraley’s Comet.” The picking is so clean and hard-driving on each break that you almost wonder if it might have been a great attention-grabbing opener. It surely has to be a show stopper at live events. More than any other tune, it showcases the musicianship of each bandmember.
The band has the tightest harmonies on “Touch The Ground.” Another prerequisite is met with the nicely done gospel penned by bandmember Troy Pope, “Man Behind The Stand.” Fans of the resonator guitar will love the closing instrumental number, “Stobro’s Blues.”
A Deeper Shade of Blue is composed of founder Brian Hinson on guitar/bass, former N.C. State banjo champion Jim Fraley, Jim’s son Jason on mandolin, Troy Pope on guitar/lead vocals, and Frank Poindexter, who might be the best resonator guitar player whose name you don’t know. While the vocals on this album are certainly solid, with several passes through the CD player, it becomes obvious that there is no weak link on instruments—each break is crisp and clean and comes in at just the right time, while the backing of the vocalist is expertly crafted. One has to think that the freedom of a live show and stage without the constraints of the studio is certainly why this band is garnering buzz.
When their next album is reviewed, it may well be said that No More Blues is the project that propelled A Deeper Shade of Blue from a local favorite with regional appeal to a band that gets more bookings in popular venues, as well as more playtime on bluegrass shows and networks. (A Deeper Shade of Blue, 4319 Stack Rd., Monroe, NC 28110, www.adeepershadeofblue.com.)MB