Beyond the Ridge

It’s obvious on Truman’s Ridge’s fifth album, Beyond the Ridge, that this group is having fun and comfortable in presenting their version of bluegrass. The regional band that mainly plays in the Midwest and down into Tennessee and Kentucky wears retro outfits complete with fedoras and gathers around a single mic at shows. 

They refer to their sound as a combination of bluegrass, folk, a touch of jazz, and a “touch of Swing Chicago Style Bluegrass.” I honestly didn’t know what Swing Style Chicago Style Bluegrass was until I listened to Beyond the Ridge, but think I’ve got it now.

Truman’s Ridge is made up of Steve Sarver (guitar/vocals), Bruce Wallace (banjo/harmonica/vocals), Chris Johnson (bass/vocals), Charley Smart (Dobro/vocals) and Max Winkels (mandolin). In an era where many releases are five to 10 cuts, this group packs 15 onto the recording, offering originals and covers of favorites.

Among the best songs are “Backslidin’ Blues,” “Your Worries and Troubles are Mine,” and the haunting “Blackjack County Chains” — a nod to a good old-fashioned bluegrass story/killing song. 

As for the covers, they all get a different take even though they are popular — “Wayfaring Stranger,” “Little Cabin Home on the Hill” and the Bob Seegar classic, “Turn the Page.” The Seegar tune will make you wonder why more bluegrass don’t take this one on.

All in all, Beyond the Ridge, while not straight-ahead driving bluegrass, is a lot of fun, a ride with bounce from start to finish.

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