It isn’t often you get to begin a bluegrass album review by talking about Latin. But Circa Blue’s name says it all. Circa by definition means “around” or “about,” as mentioned in the CD liner notes, and that is certainly the best way to describe the content.
The West Virginia-based band covers five tunes and adds another five original tunes in their self-titled debut album. The work does not fall cleanly or clearly into one category; it is not purely traditional, nor is it purely progressive. Guitarist Steve Harris shares lead vocal duties with mandolinist Ron Webb. Dave Harris is on bass and Matt Hickman aptly handles the banjo chores. Guest appearances include Mike Auldridge on resonator guitar, and Chris Sexton on fiddle.
Among the covers that might be recognized are Johnny Cash and Roy Cash Jr.’s “I Still Miss Someone,” Gillian Welch’s “Annabelle,” and “Last Train From Poor Valley” by the legendary Norman Blake. The original tunes are well done, most especially Steve Harris’ “Angry,” and Webb’s “Quiet Man” and “Previews.”
The band had its share of heartache in 2011 when mandolin player Mike McDonald passed away during the early stages of recording the CD. He did record on the tracks “Annabelle” and “Last Train.” All in all, Circa Blue has a well-done first effort, and one that is easy to listen to more than once. The vocals are smooth, varied, and well-arranged to appeal to a range of listeners. (Circa Blue, 38 Cedar Ln., Martinsburg, WV 25404, www.circa-blue.com.)MB