The Cana Ramblers - No Expectations

The Cana Ramblers - No Expectations

The Cana Ramblers
No Expectations
Cana Mania Records CR09

The Cana Ramblers, from the music-rich North Carolina/Virginia border, feature songwriter Philip Jones, his three talented kids (ages 17 to 23), and Rick Allred, best known as a member of the Country Gentlemen and Summer Wages during the late 1970s and early 1980s. No Expectations, their first album in five years, demonstrates a mature, diverse unit that has packaged the best of ’70s-style bluegrass for the twenty-first century.

The ’70s were when today’s bluegrass world started to take shape, as the bluegrass festivals, publications, and labels that emerged during the ’60s matured. The Woodstock-influenced festivals of the era morphed into the family-style bluegrass festivals of today. Iconic bands—the Seldom Scene, J.D. Crowe & the New South, Johnson Mountain Boys, New Grass Revival, Hot Rize, and Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver—emerged while the stars of the first generation were entering their fifties.

The Cana Ramblers capture the experimental variety of that era on No Expectations. Just look at the title track: a cover of the New Deal String Band’s cover of a Rolling Stones song, but with innovation in the form of a female lead vocal from Ashley Jones. Turning pop music into bluegrass was a sign of those times just as much as revisiting the classics of bluegrass and country. From the latter, we get “Will You Be Loving Another Man,” “California Cottonfields,” and “She Thinks I Still Care.” Laurie Leigh Jones’ operatic powerhouse of a voice drives “Luxury Liner,” a perfect example of the borrowing from contemporary music that was happening during the ’70s.

That time also brought a rebirth of bluegrass songwriting as folks began to selfidentify as such. Philip, who handles rhythm guitar, began writing songs then and composed five of the 16 on this release. His work ranges from a silly love song about materialism in “Things, Things, Things” to the emotionally charged “The Farm.” Laura Leigh provided the lead-off cut, “Heartaches And Teardrops,” while lead guitarist Will Jones composed “Cash’s Last Ride” when he was only 12 years old, after playing on the great man’s last show at the Carter Fold.

The Cana Ramblers deliver a full package of youth and experience, strong picking, well-arranged harmonies, diverse material that’s new and familiar, and four lead singers. Throughout the album, the band provides both the youthful exuberance and the certain lightness-of-being that marked the 1970s—all reinterpreted and updated for today. (Cana Mania Records, 1046 Brushy Fork Rd., Cana, VA 24317, www.canaramblers.com.) AM