A pioneer of the second wave of New England bluegrass musicians, Banjo Dan Lindner has led his Mid-Nite Plowboys since 1972. He started the Banjo Dan’s Songs Of Vermont series back in 1987 and has released one volume per decade since. The Sleeping Sentinel mixes some hard-driving bluegrass featuring his five-string picking with folk tunes and songs. Most of the compositions are original, but he includes a few Civil War-era tunes.
Bob Amos, once the lead vocalist of the acclaimed Front Range, is all over The Sleeping Sentinel, co-producing, singing lead and harmony, playing guitar, engineering, mixing, and mastering. Amos achieved an excellent, clear sound from the album from start to finish. The formidable studio band includes fellow Front Ranger Bob Dick (bass), famed fiddler Pete Sutherland joining Phil Bloch on that instrument, and Mid-Nite Plowboy mandolinist and vocalist Willy Lindner. Together, they deliver excellent playing and singing that makes the album delightful listening.
The thoroughly enjoyable highpoint of the album is the title “Sleeping Sentinel Suite” song cycle. It offers a captivating musical and lyrical telling of the story (popularized by Carl Sandburg) of Vermonter William Scott. Scott was scheduled to be hanged for sleeping on duty, but became a hero and eventual casualty after Lincoln pardoned him.
The problematic portion of The Sleeping Sentinel is that Banjo Dan filled the rest of the album with a random collection of Vermont songs. Had they only been Civil War pieces like “Wright And Sandborn,” this would not be an issue. They range as far, however, as a song about the St. Alban’s High School class of 1960. (www.banjodan.com.)AM