A Tale to Tell

For fans who like bluegrass songs that tell a good story along the lines of what you would expect from Norman Blake, Tim Stafford, Tom T Hall, or Thomm Jutz, the new release from Rick Lang is just the ticket.      

All the songs are written or co-written by Lang, along with Rich Schleckser, Joel Schwelling, and Lincoln Meyers. The lead singers are Tim Stafford, Shannon Slaughter, Becky Buller, Trey Hensley, David Parmley, Luke Munday, Kati Penn, Stephen  Mougin, Alan Bartram, Brandon Rickman, Jana Mougin, Rick Faris and James Kee. The band includes Mougin on guitar, Kee on mandolin, Ned Luberecki on banjo, Buller on fiddle, and Todd Parks on bass. Harmony vocals are provided by Laura Orshaw, Sammy Mougin, Ashby Frank, Larry Stephenson, Junior Williams, and several of the lead singers. 

Some of the characters and stories are “true life songs,” as Bill Monroe would say. Some are inspired by true events, and others are purely fiction—but they’re all written well enough to sound true. 

Lang wrote “Sawmill Man” as a tribute to the greatest sawmill operator in his part of the country. Bud Bannish had sawdust in his veins, splinters in his hands, and he worked in the wind and the rain. 

“Shadow in the Pines” tells the story of a stretch of railroad track that may be haunted by an engineer whose body was never found after a terrible wreck. 

In 1938 a hurricane knocked down millions of trees in the New Hampshire forest, and the government built a mill at Turkey Pond to salvage the lumber. When World War II came along the mill workers left to join the Army and 13 local women volunteered to keep the mill running successfully. This is their story. 

In “Soldier’s Last Request” we find fallen soldier Harry Cotton on the bloody fields of Gettysburg, and young Harry begs the listener to spend a few minutes with him while he remembers home and draws his last few breaths.   

     “Restless Wind” is a lonesome, Monroe-style song based on a true story in the Lang family, when Rick was asked to move a child’s grave to the family plot years after her death. 

Luke Munday plays a convincing “Miner’s Son” in a song about a young man who chooses to hop a train out of town rather than follow the generations before him into the coal mines. 

“White Dove of the Desert” is about one of the first missions built in the southwestern United States, in the middle of Arizona’s Sonoran Desert. “Toodleoo” is a tribute to Stephen Mougin’s grandfather. 

“Johnstone Flood” and “Lost Town” both deal with floods – one unfortunate yet intentional, and one the result of a broken down dam that drowned thousands in its pathway. 

“Cross Beside the Highway” was inspired by the disquieting sight of 13 white crosses along a short stretch of highway near the Lang house, marking the places of fatal car accidents. “Big Rock Hammer” is a prison song about one of those guys who make little rocks out of big rocks all day, and “Wounds That Never Heal” tells a Civil War-era story that defies description in one or two sentences. You will remember this haunting rendition by Jana Mougin. 

Highly recommended. 

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