Out Of The Woods,
Plain and simple, Bo Isaac can sing. He can throw his shoulders back and let the emotion and the declaiming fly, or he can quiet it down to a gentle, pensive storyteller level, in either case laying out spot-on phrasing and dynamics.
His partners include Elmer Burchett. Creative and assured on the banjo, his playing is easily among the top tier. Then there’s Zach Rambo on mandolin, also sure and creative, and commanding attention with always-interesting solos and flourishes. Rounding out the band is the masterful traditional-based, swing-influenced fiddling of Steve Thomas and the bass work of Randy Thomas, who along with Isaac’s favoring of the low strings of his guitar, gives the Rounders’ sound a decidedly bottom-end thump.
Whether this is a debut or not is debatable. Isaac had a solo project in 2008, and collectively the band worked and recorded as Summertown Road. What is not debatable is that this is, from start to finish, an outstanding recording, nicely-paced and varied, well-played, colorful and full of emotion, from nostalgic to moody to good-time. There are 13 tracks. “John Henry” and “Nobody’s Business” are standards, but done with lots of verve and fine soloing. The rest are new songs. Burchett had a hand in writing eight, including the hard-times song “Dollar,” the bluesy, roaring “I Got Lovin’,” the spirited “Preachin’, Prayin’,” and the lovely and swaying country, “When The Mountain Dew Starts Falling,” sung wistfully by Rambo.
Any one of those could be considered a highlight, but so, too, must be included are the free-and-easy memory songs, “Road To Summertown,” and “Flat Footin’ Tennessee.” Both of them paint wonderful pictures over dance-like figures. Highlight status must also go to the slow, contemplative gospel of “A Whisper Away,” and to the longing of “As Close As I Can Get,” in which a man realizes that a memory or imagination or prayer must substitute for current reality. Actually, you could call all but a couple of the songs here highlights. (www.therounders.net)BW