They do and they don’t. A decided lean toward the Country Gentlemen is evident on this Pinecastle debut from the Gentlemen of Bluegrass. Five of the tracks are covers of tunes once covered by the CG, including “Traveling Kind,” “This Morning At Nine,” “Blue Birds Calling,” “Waltz Of The Angels,” and “Keep Me From Blowing Away.” Two others, “Big Jim” and “God’s Country,” both originals from lead singer and guitarist Danny Stanley, draw on the CG tradition. That’s the “they do” portion of this recording.
The “they don’t” portion is that though they, at times, approximate the sound of the CG, there is little here that sounds like outright recreating. Yes, “Traveling Kind,” if heard without focus, might prompt a double-take. So, too, the two originals, particularly “God’s Country” with its Matterhorn-esque colorings. The rest, however, covers though they may be, sound more like they’re honoring a style rather than copying. Throw in Lorraine Jordan’s “Carolina Memories,” with its “Highway 40 Blues” form, and throw in some more traditional covers such as “Father’s Table Grace” and “Will The Roses Bloom,” and the lean becomes more a nod.
One could argue for a vocal similarity between Charlie Waller and Danny Stanley, but it is a similarity superficial at best. Though they both possess deep, rounded voices, Stanley has more of a country polish and a resonance to his work. He makes me think of Jim Reeves. The same is true of tenor singer and mandolinist Julian Rowland. He gets up there like John Duffey, but has his own sound when he gets there. Instrumentally, there is little or no attempt in the fine work by banjoist Randy Smith, resonator guitarist Tom Langdon, or bassist Greg Penny to cop the licks of the originals.
Where does that leave us? With an excellent, vocally-impressive album on which “they do” pay homage to the Country Gentlemen, but on which “they don’t” let that homage crowd out their own fine sound and personality. (Pinecastle Records, 5000 Old Buncombe Rd., Ste. 27-242, Greenville, SC 29617, www.pinecastlemusic.com.)BW