Mountain Fever Records MFR150317

   On Dave Adkins’ solo recording last year were bassist Edgar Loudermilk, guitarist Jeff Autry, banjoist Jason Davis, mandolinist Wayne Benson, and fiddler Justen Haynes. Adkins and Loudermilk wrote one song together, and three each separately. They co-produced and Aaron Ramsey and Mark Hodges engineered. The results were good with several tracks good enough for five weeks on the BU charts, reaching number 9.

Loudermilk then became an equal partner, and they began working on their debut, again as their own producers, writing four songs each and one together, using Ramsey as engineer, keeping Autry and substituting the talents of banjoist Chris Wade, mandolinist Zack Autry, and resonator guitarist Glen Crain. As good as the other was, this recording impresses me more. Maybe it’s having Loudermilk on an equal footing or maybe it’s better balanced or maybe it’s just the experience gained. Whatever the reason, this recording hooks the ear more and presents a brighter, more elevating sound (even as heartbreak, loss, and hard times dominate).

Loudermilk’s “Georgia Mountain Man” is a rolling bit of traditional bluegrass about remembrance and emulation, which he drives emphatically with his direct, bright mid-range lead. He then shows his vocal versatility leading four others, most notably his own “Open Road” with its relaxed flow and sing-song chorus, and his pensive “This Mournful Soul” which encourages the need for compassion.

Adkins offers equally fine performances in his inimitable growling, twisting, contemporary country approach. He’s honed his timing on faster bluegrass numbers, as heard on his plea for a clean relationship break, “Cut The Rope,” and on his hard-luck saga, “Backside Of Losing.” Slower tempos give him more space to bend the melody to his will, as highlighted by his own “Turn Off The Love,” his slow and pulsing reading of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” and his tour de force cover of Hoyt Axton’s “Spain” (though barely touching on bluegrass, it provides a welcome contrast for the CD.) Whatever changed with the creation of this new partnership, Adkins and Loudermilk definitely have the chemistry working. (Mountain Fever Records, 1177 Alum Ridge Rd., Willis, VA 24380,

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