And then there was one. On what is Blue Moon Rising’s third album, only guitarist Chris West remains from the original lineup.
The current band is Brandon Bostic on mandolin, lead and harmony vocals, Tony Mowell on bass, lead and harmony vocals, Owen Piatt on banjo and, of course, West, who now moves from being the principal songwriter to being the principal songwriter and the primary lead vocalist. It is his fine country baritone voice and his seven original songs that are the very heart and success of this CD.
Song contributions from Bostic and from several non-bandmember songwriters are, for the most part, solid and well-rendered, but with the exception of Kevin Denney’s mournful and mysteriously-ending “My Sittin’ Window,” they are no match for West’s best efforts. West’s songs just sound more convincing. Where the other contributions work within conventional bounds, melodically and thematically, West’s better tunes (“Time To Be Movin’ On,” “Hard Luck Joe,” “He Is All Around Us,” “Never Happy Until I’m Full Of Sorrow,” and “What A Helluva Way To Go”) break such bounds.
With “Time To Be Movin’ On,” it is the melodic hook with its touches of “Ring Of Fire” that makes it convincing and pleasing. With “Hard Luck Joe,” “Never Happy Until I’m Full Of Sorrow,” and “What A Helluva Way To Go,” it is the themes, each addressing a subject not common to bluegrass. “Hard Luck…” sympathetically reminds that the homeless do not try to be homeless, “Never Happy….” sketches a character we all meet in life, while “What A…” paints three miniature portraits of tragedy that each end with a restatement of the song’s title. As for the rock and blues of the drum-propelled gospel of “He Is All Around Us,” it is simply the intensity that hits home.
Those five, along with West’s elegant 3/4 time mandolin/guitar gospel tune “Living Water” and the aforementioned “My Sittin’ Window,” make for some compelling listening. (Rural Rhythm, P.O. Box 660040, Dept. D, Arcadia CA 91066, www.ruralrhythm.com.) BW