Sometimes a great attribute for an album is to be called “different.” Down in the Deepest Shade of Blue is different and it sounds, well, old. I don’t know Steve Ludwig or any Casual Hobos, but I think this group would take that as a compliment.
It’s their first album and all eight songs were written by Ludwig — a gutsy move for a debut. The odd thing is they don’t seem original, because they sound, well, old. Ludwig is from Pittsburgh, but you won’t get the sense of steel and smokestacks, as he winds through songs that sound like they could be played on a radio show that highlights old country from the 1950s or first-generation bluegrass when it was establishing itself.
“When Your Love Triangle Turns to Square” has shades of Hank Williams and there’s a turnaround or two when Ludwig appears on the verge of yodeling. “Don’t Leave Early from the Party” is a storytelling song in the tradition of The Country Gentlemen.
While “I’m So Dumb I’m Happy” maybe wins best title, and “Just a Friend” is a song many lovelorn high school or college students can relate to, “The Old Place” is perhaps the best cut of all.
Clearly Ludwig (guitar) and his band — Trish Imbrogno (bass), Jason Ericsson (banjo), Marina Pendleton (fiddle/mandolin), Stephanie Green (fiddle), Sam Stuckey (bass) — are tipping a hat to the past while remaining original.