Andy Thorn & Friends – Fire In The Sky

Andy Thorn and Friends - Fire In The Sky - Bluegrass UnlimitedANDY THORN & FRIENDS
Thornpipe Music
No Number

For me, the key to how good an album is depends on how it holds up after multiple listens. Since receiving this new project by Andy Thorn, Fire In The Sky, there are a handful of exceptional tunes on it that have not left my rotation. Thorn is a young banjo player who has performed in groups ranging from Larry Keel and Natural Bridge to the Emmit-Nershi Band, the Big Fat Gap Band and Broke Mountain Bluegrass. Currently, he is in the reformed Leftover Salmon. While Thorn has spent much time playing more progressive newgrass fare, here he puts together a group of peers based in North Carolina and Virginia to record some open-minded music that even traditional bluegrass lovers will appreciate.

Thorn sticks with the banjo throughout while surrounded by many known musicians who play for other touring bands. Those sidemen include Mark Schimick, John Garris, Bobby Britt, Jeff Stickley, Emily Frantz, Jon Stickley, Andrew Marlin, Miles Andrews, and James Wallace. Nine out of the ten songs on the album were written by Thorn, starting off with the love song to the Tar Heel State called “Carolina Song,” which features Thorn’s strong three-finger picking and Britt’s ever-present fiddle. Other highlights include the rollicking “Fire In The Sky,” the Old West-influenced “Deadwood,” and the mellow yet beautiful “Sunrise Biscuit.”

However, there are three cuts on here that are tours de force instrumentally, songs that are exciting and fun. These include the fast-as-lightening riff avalanche called “See The Mornin’ Sun,” the best instrumental I’ve heard in a long time in “Bird Call,” and a fired-up bluegrass arrangement of Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine” that’s meant to be turned up loud. It’s no coincidence that these three songs feature Garris, the best unknown musician in the business. ( DH

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