Thirty years of Big Country Bluegrass? No way! I’d be more than sixty years old. Oh…I am, and the veteran band is celebrating the anniversary with a career best album, Let Them Know I’m From Virginia. Traditional being overused, I’ll call their music hard bluegrass and makes no compromises. They make music for bluegrass fans only, as befits an ensemble named for a Jimmy Martin song. On this album, we enjoy mostly up-tempo songs with lyrics about Detroit, coal mining, preachers, and missing the mountains.
I find it wonderfully refreshing to hear a band with no writers assemble an album of original songs from the pens of such folks as Tom T. and Dixie Hall, Glen Alford, and late former band member James King. Other notable members over the three decades include Lynwood Lunsford, Johnny Williams, Don Rigsby, Jimmy Trivette, Jeff Michael, Ramona Church, and founding banjoman Larry Pennington. The constant core all these years consists of mandolinist Tommy Sells and Teresa Sells playing guitar and singing lead on a pair of songs and tenor to Eddie Gill’s confident lead on the rest. On the album, Tim Laughlin’s detail oriented fiddling and John Treadway’s tasteful banjo playing get special commendation.
Fast and medium fast songs dominate the project. One notable exception is Marvin Morrow’s “One More Time, Let Me Tell You (About Jesus),” a refreshingly original gospel number. Overall, they deliver a well-played, sung, and a most welcome set of a dozen songs. (Rebel Records, P.O. Box 7405, Charlottesville, VA 22906, www.rebelrecords.com.)AM