For those like me who still thought of Bob Amos primarily as the songwriting lead vocalist with Front Range, Sunrise Blues is an ear-opener in many ways. It’s no surprise that he has filled the tracks of his latest CD with several fine new songs, all firmly anchored in the themes of classic bluegrass. However, it’s his relatively new high-profile role as his band’s banjo frontman that is a revelation.
Amos’s five-string does what his songs and vocals have always done, which is to find that perfect pocket where the rhythmic drive seems effortless and the melodies seem new and timeless, simultaneously. On instrumentals such as “Big Bend” and “Lucky Dog,” he joins forces with fiddler Freeman Corey, mandolinist Jesse Brock, and longtime bass cohort Bob Dick to aptly demonstrate that he can sing on the banjo as well.
Sunrise Blues contains recurring themes of loss and redemption, from the haunting a cappella “My Heavenly Home” to the album’s opening track, the resilient “Coming ’Round.” Another significant element of emergence is the presence of daughter Sarah on vocals. While she takes a lead turn on the wistful ballad “Where Are You Now,” it’s the way she rounds out the high harmonies of songs like “Cry Of The Catamount” and “Reunion” that really bring the vocal mix into that special zone that sometimes only kin can manage. His son Nate also adds his voice to a pair of tracks.
Additionally, Amos’s latest CD includes two straightforward treatments of “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” and “Midnight On The Stormy Deep,” as well as a re-recorded version of one of his early original songs, “Mr. Beford’s Barn.” But the overriding impression that Bob Amos’s new release leaves is that of a man who finds himself in a good place musically, exploring the comforts of music and family with a renewed vitality. (Bob Amos, 2539 Diamond Hill Rd., Saint Johnsbury, VT 05819, www.bobamos.com.)HK