Bluegrass Unlimited - Big Country Bluegrass - The Boys In Hats & TiesBIG COUNTRY BLUEGRASS
Rebel Records

You could see adjustments being made to the band’s song selection around the time of their twentieth anniversary CD. Before that, the band had used a healthy dose of standards. With Twenty Years Of Grass, they became more far-reaching. That process continues today with this very good new recording on which only two tracks qualify as old favorites. The two are “In Foggy Old London,” once popularized by Jimmy Martin, and “Wreck On The Highway,” a classic done in classic style. Both are excellent. Jeff Michael really puts himself into “Wreck…” and Teresa Sells does the same on “In Foggy…”

This is a group that always puts itself into every song. I would say that the passage of time has brought a certain maturing with it, and that that has meant some of their rawer, sparking feel has been tempered, but that that has also produced a more cohesive, warmer sound. There is still a wealth of energy to be sure, channeled now into a set of more obscure covers such as Roy McMillan’s “Lonely Old Man,” band originals such as Michael’s “I’m Gonna Walk The Streets Of Gold,” and covers of newer compositions beginning with Tom T. and Dixie Hall’s title song, one of those portrait-like reminiscence songs that should have chart potential. That gives way to a make-a-comeback song “All The Way To Nothing,” followed by Cullen Galyean’s torrid “Black Mountain Special.” Of the three instrumentals Tut Taylor’s tribute to his A-5 mandolin, “Prodigal 5,” is a rocking and swaying tune done extremely well, and Michael’s fiddle tune, “Rendevous,” rips right along. Johnny Williams also contributes one of his patented catch-phrase songs, in which a man says to his wife: If you’re driving me crazy/ You don’t have far to go.

It is worth noting that the clean, throaty mandolin leads of Tommy Sells all through is one of this album’s highlights, and that these songs represent the final recordings of the band’s late bassist, Alan Mastin. (Rebel Records, P.O. Box 7405, Charlottesville, VA 22906, BW