Big Country Bluegrass is known as a band that performs no-nonsense straight-ahead bluegrass, and with 32 years and over a dozen recordings behind them, they have not wavered. Mountains, Mamas And Memoriesis very much in that tradition, with 12 cuts of prime traditional bluegrass featuring polished three-part harmonies, solid instrumental support, and some very good new material.
One of the best cuts here is Tracy O’Connell’s “Mama’s Radio” with fine soulful lead work by Teresa Sells and great harmony vocals by banjoist John Treadway and fiddler Tim Laughlin. Equally strong are Eddie Mars’ “Times Were Good When Times Were Hard” with Eddie Gill on lead vocals, and Allen Mills’ fine “Back To The Mountains” with Sells again on the lead vocals. As usual, the band has mined some quality tunes from old sources, including “Country Boy, Banjo, And Flat Top Guitar” about the origins of country music, “The Hills Of Caroline,” and Mills’ “Back To The Mountains.” Strong new compositions include two coal-mining songs—Greg Preece’s “The Whiskey Or The Coal” and “You Can’t Buy Your Way Out Of The Mines” from Tracy O’Connell. “Carolina Traveler” is a driving composition from North Carolina WPAQ deejay Tim Frye, with some great fiddling by Laughlin.
With fine lead vocals by Sell and Gill, harmony work that is uniformly clean and tight, and spot-on instrumental support that includes Tony King on bass, this band (led so ably by Tommy and Teresa Sells) has another winner here. Those familiar with the band should find this release just what they’ve come to expect from these stalwarts of traditional sound, and those who appreciate the early decades of classic bluegrass should find a lot to like, as well. (Rebel Records, P.O. Box 7405, Charlottesville, VA 22906, www.rebelrecords.com.)AW