Lily Pad Records
Buddy Merriam and Back Roads open their seventh recording with a gently-insistent, minor-key original called “New Echota.” With its descending chord pattern and droning ’60s rock-instrumental feel, it makes for a captivating introduction. Yes, it’s a little long given its repetitive form, but it works well and has an almost hypnotic pull. Merriam says it’s a tribute to Native Americans and, once you know that, the trance-like qualities take on a different context.
That’s the first of five original instrumentals Merriam contributed: two waltzes (“Waltz Of The Pine,” full of twists of interest is the best); a martial-beat, European sounding jig (“41 Degnon”); and a reel (“Avery Anne’s Reel”). All are nicely varied in design. Three tunes are from guitarist and lead vocalist Matt Riley. He sings of the pride of “The Farm” life, his pride in the country on “Live Free Or Die,” and the pride of owning a 1920s Gibson A “Snakehead Mandolin.” On each, he attacks his vocals with a vigor, sometimes recalling the anguished half-shout that Levon Helm used to bring to The Band. That’s particularly up front on the title-cut. At other times, Riley bunches his words, creating a fury. That effect, which is quite propulsive, is most noticeable on “Live Free Or Die.”
Two Monroe tunes are both sung by Riley using a more traditional vocal approach. The first, “Stay Away From Me,” is not one of Bill’s best, but gets a nice backbeat read here. “Bluest Man In Town” is a semi-classic that draws out the best of the band’s bluesy technique. Merriam has been at this a long time and, over those years, he’s developed an intriguing take on traditional bluegrass. The Farm—entertaining, colorful, and varied—showcases his vision in fine fashion. (Buddy Merriam, P.O. Box 862, Sound Beach, NY 11789, www.buddymerriam.com.)BW