On the heels of winning a contest at Telluride in 2016, Fireball Mail from Alabama has released its debut recording. In the band are Brad Bulla (guitar), Caleb Edwards (mandolin), Phil Easterbrook (banjoist), and Joe Brown (bass). They’re joined on two songs by fiddler Aubrey Haynie and by fiddler Jenny Anne Mannan on one. The eleven tracks include two standards (“Good Woman’s Love” and “Angeline The Baker” with vocals) and nine originals of which Bulla wrote four and Edwards two. They also wrote two together, and Easterbrook contributed the instrumental “Dakota Ridge.”
The band has a sound influenced by music of the late ’70s and ’80s. That’s not to say older and newer sounds don’t pop up throughout, but there is a decided nod toward the melodic colorings of that era, perhaps most notable on Edwards’ “When New York Calls Her Name” and on Bulla’s “When She Was Mine.” Both are very good and stand notably beside the opener, “One More Reason,” and the cover and bluesy swing of “Eight Days.” The interplay of the instruments on the latter tune is excellent.
Who sings which lead is not stated. Hazarding a guess, it sounds like Edwards has the higher, thinner lead, and Bulla has a slightly lower pitch. Both fit the songs here quite well. Instrumentally, everyone has some excellent moments; banjoist Easterbrook for certain, but most notably mandolinist Edwards. Check out his ear-catching ideas on “Eight Days” and “Angeline The Baker,” his closing lick on “Good Woman’s Love,” and the middle portion of his solo on “Secret Sorrows.” Those along with the songs and the performances make for a very good debut.(www.fireballmailband.com)BW