Sprinkled among the 14 tracks here are several tunes worthy of special mention, beginning with the moderately-galloping opener, “Waitin’.” Written and sung by the band’s principle lead vocalist and writer, guitarist Hank Bowman, “Waitin’” essentially admonishes us that we have to work at what we want rather than waiting for it to happen and moaning when it doesn’t. Bowman, a warm and polished baritone, is very good vocally on weary, blues-inflected tunes and on tunes requiring a smooth and warm country lead. “Waitin’” falls under the heading of the latter. The track also highlights the strong ensemble work and solid soloing from banjoist Stu Brown, mandolinist Brad Martin, bassist Julie Brown, and guest fiddler Greg Luck who is found throughout this recording.
“Her Song” and “While Listening To Rock And Roll,” both fine compositions, are of a similar medium-tempo, country lilt as “Waitin’,” but with different stylistic foundations. “Her Song,” sung by Brad Martin, recalls those loping country rock tunes the Eagles’ played in the ’70s, and the band and Martin capture that groove very well. “While Listening To Rock And Roll,” on the other hand, has more of a country-influenced indie rock feel, portraying some aging friends trying to hang on to youth and declaring that we should never stop listening to that rock n’ roll—an interesting statement for a bluegrass album.
Certainly the most intriguing and one of the most entertaining songs here, is the band’s cover of Tears For Fears’ rock hit of the 1980s, “Shout.” To be honest, I couldn’t turn the rock version off fast enough when it was out back then, but given the creative arrangement here, particularly the pseudo-Celtic intro, the Outliers have won me over—at least to their version.
Overall, those four tracks, along with Bowman’s bluesy and insistent stomper, “Guilty Of The Blues,” and their cover of Peter Rowan’s “Wild Geese Cry Again,” place this album among the better regional band releases. (Julie Brown, 4847 Lambeth Mill Rd., Bennett, NC 27208, www.theoutliersband.com.)BW