For nearly thirty years now, Big Country Bluegrass has played and recorded unabashed, straight-ahead traditional bluegrass music. I’m all for the roots and branches of the genre—progressive and otherwise. Still, it’s cool to hear a band who doesn’t just throw a hard-driving traditional tune into the mix now and then, but instead rocks it full bore 24/7. That’s the case with Big Country Bluegrass’ new album Memories Of The Past.
There have been some lineup changes for the band over the years, but the core of the group continues to be Tommy Sells and his wife Teresa. Other musicians performing on this recording include Eddie Gill, Lynwood Lunsford, Tony King, and Billy Hawks. Adding tenor vocals to several cuts is Don Rigsby. Continuing the Sells’ ongoing relationship with legendary songwriters Tom T. and Dixie Hall, the album starts off with the “I’m Putting On My Leaving Shoes.” That’s followed by a wonderful song written many years ago by Jesse McReynolds, “My Time Is Running Out,” about a man advanced in years who returns to the family farm only to see it in bad disrepair and then realizing he is too old to restore the land as he desires.
Other highlights include a rollicking take on Aubrey Holt’s “Headin’ South,” the barn-burning Don Reno instrumental “Choking The Strings,” the old-school country music sound of “Like The Boys On Music Row,” and Curly Ray Cline’s hard-luck tale “Baby You’re Cheatin’.” (Rebel Records, P.O. Box 7405, Charlottesville, VA 22906, www.rebelrecords.com.)DH