Hot on the heels of IBMA awards for Song Of The Year (“A Far Cry From Lester & Earl”) and Album Of The Year (“Heart Of A Song”) in 2012, Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice have cut loose with another fine collection of hardcore bluegrass. Not surprising, since Sisk—one of the best and pure bluegrass singers working today—continues to hold strong to the tradition. The Story Of The Day That I Died catches the band at the peak of their game.
The recording kicks off with the title track, a wry twist on the usual lost love lament that has the lead character leaving this life, but not in quite the way it’s usually done in bluegrass songs. The band shows taste and sensitivity in all the right places on slower tunes like “If The Bottle Was A Bible” and “A House Where A Home Used To Be” and provides real punch, in the bluegrass way, on burners like “Drinking At The Water Hole” and “Good To See The Home Place Once Again.” The lone instrumental, “Jesse James,” is a well-worn workhorse that’s refreshed with drive and passion.
The absolute highlight of the recording, though, is Sisk’s spine-tingling duet with the great Joe Mullins on “Lover’s Quarrel.” Sisk’s lead matched exactly by Mullins’ tenor, as if they were brothers, is punctuated by Mullins’ world-class banjo fills. It’s the perfect antidote to too many generic-sounding bluegrass bands. You know in the first seconds this is going to be an instant classic.
Junior Sisk and his bandmates in Ramblers Choice—Chris Davis, Jason Davis, Billy Hawks and Jason Tomlin—are hitting on all cylinders. The material, the performance, the drive, and dynamics all remind us what bluegrass at its best sounds like. (Rebel Records, P.O. Box 7405, Charlottesville, VA 22906, www.rebelrecords.com.)AWIII