Leading off with solid, but unremarkable versions of “My Rose Of Old Kentucky” and “On The Sea Of Life” does little for a band other than prove they are pretty good, yet not Bill Monroe or Doyle Lawson. Many listeners may tune out by then, already confused as to whether the CD Summers Gone by Bluetown is supposed to be a commercial release or a demo to send to promoters. The booklet looks like the former, yet the blank CD and generic jewel case suggest a demo.
Those who leave early will miss out, for the best moments on Summers Gone only appear when original material forces them to find their own path uninfluenced by other versions. Fiddler Barkley Davis, who sings lead on most of the cuts and tenor on the four when rhythm guitarist Tim Collier takes the lead, composed three of the songs, and his father Marvin wrote two. The latter’s “Black Dust Fever” rewards those who make it to the third cut with a hard, East Kentucky sounding song. Barkley’s driving title track offers an unusual arrangement and some nice banjo picking from 19-year-old Cody Looper. The other originals produce confident arrangements and performances, as do a couple of interesting covers. The closing recitation, “The Minnow Song” about the bunch fishing on Norris Lake, is credited to the band. Curiously, it doesn’t appear on the exterior track listing. The remaining titles are more than familiar, as are the arrangements that Bluetown uses. A few too many selections are played at full-out breakneck speed, such as the overdriven “Old Chain Gang.”
Vocals are a strength for Bluetown. Tim’s mandolinist brother Rick handles the baritone to complete their trio that blends and works together quite well. Davis proves more than enjoyable as lead singer with a voice that could become recognizable. In any case, Summers Gone comes across as a project by a quintet from central Indiana with a good deal of ability. The members of Bluetown have the chops both instrumentally and vocally and suggest genuine joy in playing music together. They are energetic and committed. Bluetown needs to build around original material and their own strengths rather than covering songs associated with famous acts. (www.bluetownbluegrassband.com) AM