By the third song of Carolina Road’s vibrant new recording, their point is made. All three songs, “Back To My Roots,” “A Light In The Window,” and “The Hills Of Home,” carry the same message of leaving home, finding life difficult or inhospitable, and then returning home. For Lorraine Jordan and the band, which now features lead vocalist/guitarist Tommy Long, banjoist Ben Greene, fiddler Jason Goforth, and bassist Eddie Biggerstaff, the theme of returning home symbolizes their shift from the contemporary musical ideas flirted with on their past recordings to an almost purely traditional style. “Light In The Window” drives the point home the strongest of the three.
Written by Tom T. and Dixie Hall, and already making noise on the charts as a single, “Light In The Window” has great imagery and a strong melody, but also alludes to Bill Monroe by mentioning Rosine, Ky., and in doing so strengthens the ties back to the tradition. Then, to underscore the return further, the band offers from tracks six to eight, a solid set of traditional standards, beginning with Jimmie Davis’ “Sharecropper’s Son,” moving through a relaxed and swaying Long/Jordan duet on “I Know You’re Married But I Love You Still,” and ending with Jordan bending and twisting the raggy melody of “What It Means To Be Lonesome.” The recording concludes with the Louvin’s “Bald Knob, Arkansas” and with A.L. Woods’ “Sing A Bluegrass Song,” which uses a string of bluegrass titles in the chorus and on which fiddler Goforth interpolates “Uncle Pen” into his solo for good measure.
The one exception to tradition is “Granny’s Garden” by guitarist Long. Taken slow and sentimental over predominantly fingerpicked guitar, the sound is unmistakably contemporary. Some might see that as an odd inclusion after trumpeting their return to tradition, but on the other hand, when you go away and return, you bring some things back with you. Overall, a fine traditional recording. (Rural Rhythm, P.O. Box 750, Mt. Juliet, TN 37121, www.ruralrhythm.com.) BW