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CD Review: MARK LAVENGOOD - We've Come Along

We've Come Along
We've Come Along - Ol' Slew Foot - Interlude for L.A. - Three Day Blow - Mule Kick - Vulpes Vulbes Intro - Vulpes Vulpes - Hungry Heart - Bound To Ride - Interlude for L.A. (reprise)- America
Just when I think the 'normal' progression' of a musical genre has completely disappeared in America, I find someone whose heart 'knows' what progression should be.  It's simply 'keeping' the basis for the music as it was established, the originality, the creativity, the normalcy, the beauty. What happens in the artistic world of music today, nearly any genre, is to not 'progress' it, but to 'change' it.  That isn't, or at least in the past, wasn't the 'norm.'  Country music is a good example of how the 'story telling' reason for its existence turned into how much money can we make. That's not really a reason for artistic expression.  It's happening in bluegrass music today.  Bill Monroe's most stern retort to those who asked why he even created bluegrass music, was always 'I want to save the ancient tones.'  That led to a form of acoustic music that stayed in step with Monroe.  For the longest time we heard bluegrass music in its many different individual styles, always keeping with the Monroe 'doctrine.'  Today however, there are many groups that have led the 'genre' into a kind of 'jazz like' sound that does not reflect the original purpose of the music at all. Actually it abandons the premise that was laid down by the original creator.  This is true in just about everything 'American' today, the 'purpose' has been eliminated for one reason, and one reason only, make money or quit.  That isn't the means or the demeanor of any creative artist.  And just as I bewail the loss of the creative force inside a genre of music like bluegrass, along comes a guy like Mark Lavengood who is not only creative, he maintains and holds the standard bearer high, high enough for Bill Monroe to approve the effort.  "Ol Slew Foot" is a good example of maintaining the prestige and 'style' of the genre.  It couldn't be better, it's full of energy and astonishing picking. Mark Lavengood plays the Dobro, an interesting musical instrument in itself, perhaps best known as the forerunner of the steel guitar which became a 'standard' in early classic country music.  Lavengood uses the instrument to 'express' as well as 'describe' the music he is playing. I not only love the 'traditional' sound he creates, but his 'originals' are very expressive.  Like all 'new' works, one has to sit down and 'listen' if they want to understand.  This is a large band, Kyle Rhodes on vocals, guitar & mandolin; Jason Dennie on vocals mandolin & guitar; Spencer Cain on upright acoustic bass; and Keith Billik on banjo.  This interesting and entertaining CD was recorded in Michigan of all places, somewhat removed from the early Kentucky 'source' of the music, but close enough to catch the attention of any traditional bluegrass music lover.  Mark's original lyric words are truly original, "Time's fleeting now what else shall we do but find the source that fuels our soul, learn to live anew."  Pretty neat huh?  Some of us have read the Book, and we know how it ends.  I believe Mark has done that, and he has a lot to share from that experience.  "Lets let love guide us let it be as we roll on down the road."  Yep, he knows!  He also knows how to project individuality.  "Mule Kick" is definitely a 'long-time' picking experience, but he replicates it just like he created it.  Interesting all the way through.  It's already a 'new' year for submitting CD's to the Rural Roots Music Commission for their "CD of the Year" awards in early September, 2018.  Off it goes, with my hope that the folks hear it like I do.
RECORD REVIEW BY BOB EVERHART, President National Traditional Music Association (since 1976)  www.music-savers.com for Country Music News International

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