With each new CD, and this is their fourth, the Massachusetts-based group Acoustic Blue alters its format a bit. Some have more standards. Some have more original material. Number four, Timeless, is mostly either newer compositions from outside the band or lesser-known covers. They include among them, the slow, betrayal and denial song “I Don’t Want To Know,” the I’ve-got-all-I-need gospel of Tom T. Hall’s “Me And Jesus” and the story of a rakish bachelor who finally finds himself done in by the “Love Bug.” Also among them is “Around Here,” a nifty piece of writing in which a local explains all the things an out-of-towner needs to do to be successful with the local ladies. Taken at a nice clip and with words sprayed machine-gun-like, it is one of the album’s highlights.
To go with those are one true standard, three near standards and two band originals. Larry Sparks’ “Brand New Broken Heart,” a standard in anyone’s book, gets a wistful, flowing treatment. “Rose-Colored Glasses,” a near standard these days, is a fine showcase for Corey Zink’s rich, resonant lead vocals, while “We’re Steppin’ Out Tonight” with its Hank Williams-like hutzpah and zest struts along in fine fashion, closing a four-song run that gives the middle of the recording a nice lift. Of the two originals, “Windmills” is the standout, sounding like the sort of folk-flavored song the Country Gentleman would have covered fifty years ago; Zink’s lead on that one even manages a few Charlie Waller inflections.
What hasn’t changed over the four albums is the lineup. Zink on mandolin and all but one lead vocal, Alton Acker on bass, T. Shaun Batho on guitar, and Larry Neu on banjo. That constancy, resulting in a relaxed and polished presentation, shows from track to track and the CD as a whole comes off quite well. (Acoustic Blue, 227 Barker Rd., Pittsfield MA 01201, www.acousticblueonline.com.) BW