If you’re intrigued to hear music that inspired many of first generation artists long before the Big Bang of bluegrass music in December 1945 (or even 1939, with the formation of the Blue Grass Boys), you’ll find this new album from David Davis & The Warrior River Boys to be equally educational and entertaining. Those of you not already familiar with Charlie Poole’s repertoire from the 1920s may be surprised to recognize songs you’ve heard and played in jam sessions over the years. Those who already recognize Poole as the grandfather of bluegrass music—or perhaps American roots music—as Davis does, will be thrilled to hear 14 of his songs performed in a manner both robust and elegant by this fine band.
In the liner notes, Davis explains: “Our intention was to evolve the songs, yet leave the strength and essence of the original feel as our foundation and build on that…a marriage of old-time tunes melded with bluegrass instrumentation, rhythm, and harmonies.”
Marty Hays (bass) and David Davis (mandolin) blend vocally like brothers, after singing together for more than 20 years. Robert Montgomery plays banjo, Stan Wilemon plays guitar, and Billy Hurt fiddles up a storm. The varied set list includes story songs and sentimental ballads about mother and lost love, along with raucous, humorous tunes where the banjo sounds like a rollicking honky-tonk piano.
Poole collected his songs from Tin Pan Alley, blues standards, old-time, and popular early 20th century music, making them his own. The Warrior River Boys have done the same, injecting their own exuberant energy and heart to make these old songs new again, in the traditional bluegrass style. Highlights include “He Rambled,” “May I Sleep in Your Barn Tonight, Mister?” “Girl I Left in Sunny Tennessee,” “Goodbye Mary Dear,” “White House Blues,” “Sweet Sunny South,” and more.
Listeners who like to hear a little blues, trad-country and old-time stories in their bluegrass (fans of Mike Compton, David Peterson, Chris Henry,Mac Wiseman, Jimmie Rodgers, and Hank, Sr., etc.) will enjoy the time-warp groove that David Davis and his band create here. Highly recommended. (Rounder Records, 1 RounderWay, Burlington, MA 01803, www.rounder.com.)NC