And Then There's This...
I Know Better - Road of Life - Sweet Little Mountain Girl - True Hearts - Old Friend Of Mine - Warm Wind - If You Want Me To - Delta Queen - I Like Trains - Autumn Glen - A Place To Hang My Hat - Highway of Sorrow
Bluegrass music is obviously the 'carrier' of what traditional and classic country music once was, at least in America. In today's world of an extremely small commercial country music market, and getting smaller, especially with phony country music, it will inevitably be bluegrass music that carries the torch for those fans who have been left in the lurch by commercial country music. I'm very familiar with the Grascals, but this CD is without a doubt one of their best works yet. There is a tremendous number of outstanding bluegrass bands performing and recording today. The 'licks' the vocal 'interpretations' the recording techniques, even the 'mix' is steadily in place. That's not going to change much, it's all done so well. What will make the difference in the top bluegrass bands will be material. That material has to 'match' what the band does and how they do it. And that's the winner for the Grascals. They have chosen NOT to write every song they record. Rather, they move their energies and obvious talent doing the music that appeals to them. I must admit "Road of Life" written by Jeffrey Ray Edwards, uses the progression of John Hartford's "Gentle On My Mind" BUT it's still a terrific song that fits the Grascals really well. I also like how this band 'swaps' lead vocalists. Definitely keeps every song 'different' and certainly with each vocalist at the top of his (her) game, it makes for a very interesting listening experience. One of my favorite traditional country bluegrass composers is Larry Cordle. His song "Delta Queen" is incredibly well done, including the intro to the song, extremely original and certainly a 'you better listen' intro. "Harmony" is the other most important part of a 'top' bluegrass band, and it can be a winner or a loser very easily, especially with all those parts that need to be there. On this recording, 'harmony' does not only excel, it exceeds. I like the banjo a lot in bluegrass music, but tending toward traditional music I like the fiddle a bit better, and here Adam Haynes also excels. Still all the instruments need to be 'together' and they are with the Grascals. Terry Eldredge on guitar; Danny Roberts on mandolin; John Bryan on guitar; Terry Smith on bass (no not that Terry Smith who wrote Far Side Banks of Jordan for Johnny Cash); Kristin Scott Benson delightful on banjo. Best song for me is "A Place To Hang My Hat" a truly classic country song in style, content, and certainly ability. Watch the Grascals pick up those early country fans who have been abandoned by commercial country music. Super CD Grascals, off it goes to the Rural Roots Music Commission who select their CD of the Year awards which they give away at the 41st annual National Old Time Music Festival (Aug 29-Sept 4 in LeMars, Iowa). If I were the Grascals, I'd already be finding a way to be somewhere near that location on any date they might choose. "Bluegrass CD of the Year" isn't a small thing coming from the entire upper Midwest.
RECORD REVIEW BY BOB EVERHART - www.ntcma.net
for Country Music News International