Bull’s Eye Records

Of the instrumental musicianship in Bull Harman and Bull’s Eye, there can be little doubt. Bull, as anyone familiar with his work can attest, is an upper-tier bluegrass guitarist. His solos are imaginative. His lines are fluid. And he brings great energy to his efforts. Listen to him on the opening instrumental “Draw Four,” and you hear all of that. And you’ll hear it on all the uptempo tunes that make up all but a few tracks of this album, among them “Hot Burrito Breakdown,” “If You’re Ever In Oklahoma,” the snappy swing cover of Lester Flatt’s “Is It Too Late Now,” and “Blue Night.”

The other pickers in the group, banjoist Alex Riffle, mandolinist Hal Cottrell, and bassist Wyatt Harman are not far off, if at all. Riffle shines best on “Hot Burrito Breakdown,” but the difference between that performance and any of his other contributions is slight. The same is true of Cottrell. I was most impressed by his playing on his Spanish-influenced original instrumental “Rushin’ Grass.”

Vocally, the band is not quite on that level. Their harmonies are pretty good—a rather smooth performance all around. Lead-wise they can put the song across competently, but lack distinction. Wyatt, who handles the majority of the leads has an incisive, somewhat sharp tone that brings urgency, particularly on “Is It Too Late Now,” “Jailhouse Blues,” and the slightly up-tempo “False Hearted Love.” Cottrell, who sings on a couple, including his own “Twisted Vines” and Sonny Throckmorton’s “Friday Night Blues,” is at his best with an almost pleading “Blue Night.” Tammy Harman turns in a driving “If You’re Ever In Oklahoma,” her only lead. A solid album that holds much attention with its instrumental work. (Bull’s Eye Records, P.O. Box 2024, Florissant, MO 63032, www.bullharman.com.)BW

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