This is the secular side of two Dry Branch Fire Squad CDs recorded at the same session and released simultaneously. Buy one or buy both. Each will stand on its own merits; merits that become obvious from the opening track.
Up first is guitarist Brian Aldridge’s “Load Up The Car,” one of those loping hybrids of old-time and bluegrass that DBFS does so well. Aldridge is on lead vocal and mandolin, and Ron Thomason throws in the harmony and clawhammer banjo, spinning out a hypnotic, barn dance memory song about jams and gatherings and wanderlust. It’s not quite as clever as a Tom T. Hall song, but not off by much. “All The Good Times Are Over Here,” Thomason’s somewhat bitter rewrite of the standard, follows and makes for an interesting pairing. That’s followed by three well-done standards—among them Monroe’s “Dark Is The Night” and the traditional “I’ve Always Been A Rambler”—and then, by a string of excellent choices from outside the canon. First comes George Jones’ 3/4 time “Someone You Used To Know.” Of the three Jones tunes here, this one comes across best, hitting just the right balance in both writing and performance. Next comes Thomason’s take on “Sweet Little Sheila,” which, hambone rhythm included, loses nothing in the translation. Arguably the best of the run, however, is the guitar and quartet “You Take A Cab,” a pseudo-gospel tune by Jesse Winchester that details the hazards of the Big Apple and demands multiple replays. Of the rest, “Highway Of Sorrow” and the wonderful guitar and vocal duet of “Over The Garden Wall” stand out.
In the liner notes, Thomason states that for reasons relating to the song choices and the old-fashioned manner in which this CD was recorded, “This record is NOT for everyone.” That’s true of most recordings, but it’s hard to hear anything here that what would put anyone off. (Aerie-Eagle Peak Ranch, P.O. Box 404 Cotopaxi, CO 81223, www.drybranchfiresquad.com.)BW