On their latest release, and their first for Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores, Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out have taken a slightly different tack. Produced by Barry Bales, long time bassist-vocalist for Alison Krauss & Union Station, this 12-song collection reaches back into bluegrass and country music’s archives and revives some well-known and some not so well-known blasts from the past. Among them are a couple of selections from IIIrd Tyme Out’s own twenty-year-long catalog.
Moore and his bandmates breathe new vibrancy into these classics with their stellar vocal harmonies and stalwart bluegrass arrangements. Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried,” “Farewell Party” (a mournful honky-tonk lament that was a top-five country hit for Gene Watson in 1979) and “The Old Home Place” (previously recorded by J.D. Crowe and others) are just a few of the songs that are imaginatively “bluegrassed” in this collection.
Moore (front man, lead singer, and the only remaining original member of the band he formed twenty years ago) and his talented line-up—Steve Dilling (banjo/vocals), Justen Haynes (fiddle/vocals), Wayne Benson (mandolin/vocals), Edgar Loudermilk (upright bass/vocals), and Josh Hunt (drums)—also turn in a rip-roaring reprise of “Tulsa Time,” a 1978 chart-topper for Don Williams. They are joined by Williams’ long time guitarist/harmony vocalist Danny Flowers, who also wrote “Tulsa Time.” On a lovely, soulful rendition of “Golden Ring,” a massive hit and signature duet for George Jones and Tammy Wynette back in the mid-1970s, Moore duets with Sonya Isaacs. Just as memorable is a wistful revival of the ethereal John Hartford-penned “Gentle On My Mind,” which was a pop-country crossover hit for Glen Campbell back in 1967.
During the two decades in which various bandmembers have come and gone, IIIrd Tyme Out has racked up seven IBMA Vocal Group Of The Year honors, while Moore himself garnered five awards as Male Vocalist Of The Year. This sterling tradition of vocal artistry and instrumental prowess is sustained handily by the group’s current lineup. It comes through especially loud and clear as Moore and company reconfigure a pair of favorites from the group’s own past: the doo-wop classic “Only You” and the poignant love ballad “John And Mary,” where Moore swaps lead vocals with country star Pam Tillis. (Cracker Barrel, P.O. Box 787, Lebanon, TN 37088, www.crackerbarrel.com/music.)BA