Mountain Fever Records
Pull together musicians from bands such as the Cherryholmes, IIIrd Tyme Out, the Darrell Webb Band, and Mountain Heart, give them a chance to work up a CD’s worth of traditional, straight-from-the-still bluegrass, mix it all together with a heaping dollop of creativity, and you get the new bluegrass supergroup, Sideline. Featuring Steve Dilling on banjo, Darrell Webb on mandolin, Skip Cherryholmes on guitar, bassist Jason Moore, and fiddler Justen Haynes, the group’s debut recording, aptly titled Session 1, is pure pleasure and a must-hear for fans of traditional bluegrass.
The repertoire here ranges from well-known tunes like “Sophronie,” “Girl At The Crossroads Bar,” and “When You’re Lonely,” and “Little Willie” that will have the bluegrass faithful hitting the repeat button on their CD players. But the band also stretches the boundaries a bit, tossing in an original from Webb and other tunes from a more modern origin.
With such instrumental firepower, it’s no surprise the playing here is uniformly outstanding. Dilling’s banjo is sharp as rock salt in a fresh wound, and Haynes’ fiddling would have worked in any of Monroe’s countless Blue Grass Boys ensembles. Cherryholmes is one of the underrated flatpickers of the day, and the band’s rhythm section lays down a solid track that a “White Freightliner” could drive down in a cold mountain fog. The singing is equally powerful and true. Honest, sincere lead singing backed by true-blue harmonies reverberates throughout the project. Hard to pick any favorites, but the “Blues Are Still The Blues” is especially hot. Webb’s “The Way, The Truth, The Light” recalls the great gospel sounds of Flatt & Scruggs at their peak. And closing the album with “Sophronie” was the only way to end these stellar proceedings.
As great as it is to hear long-standing bands perform with passion and perfection borne of hours of rehearsal and endless gigs, it’s also wonderful to hear a super-talented group of musicians get together and just cut loose. That’s clearly the case with Sideline. Here’s hoping it’s not too long a wait until we get Session 2! (Mountain Fever Records, 1177 Alum Ridge Rd. NW, Willis, VA 24380, www.mountainfever.com.)DJM