Blue-&-LonesomeBLUE & LONESOME

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The lead vocals on this third CD from Northern California’s Blue & Lonesome alternate between the clearer, more polished style of guitarist Mike Wilhoyte and the rowdier, rougher hewn style of mandolinist Ed Neff (medium range) and banjoist Larry Cohea (higher range). There are times when each side is dead-on appropriate to the song at hand and times when they are less so. Wilhoyte is at his best on “Better Times A Coming,” a cataloging of hard luck conditions ending with the song title as a refrain. He’s buoyant and happy-go-lucky, even as the song’s situation is neither. I also found his singing on “Roustabout” (and in harmony with Neff on “Worried Man Blues”) very effective. By contrast, he was a bit awkward and stiff on “Wabash Cannonball.”

Neff’s vocal is strong on “Worried Man Blues,” but even more so on Wilma Lee Cooper’s “Tomorrow I’ll Be Gone.” That song calls for a certain vocal tint and Neff has it, mixing a Monroe-like delivery (and a closing falsetto) with a down-and-out weariness. Cohea comes off best on the gospel tune “No Hiding Place.”

Instrumentally, the sound is smooth and even-handed. While Neff has a definite Monroe style, hitting lots of strings both open and closed, the rest of the band plays more relaxed. This gives the recording an interesting mix of flow and old-style grit. Of the instrumentals, Dorsey Harvey’s “Cruising Timber” and fiddler Paul Shelasky’s “All The Way ’Cross Texas” are the standouts. A solid recording overall with a number of high points. (

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