DUKE WEDDINGTON & HIGHER GROUND BLUEGRASS
Hailing from New Mexico, these folks bring a well-played program of bluegrass from the folksier side of the genre. Their music has a broad appeal with its uptempo approach and contemporary vocal stylings. Some of their original material is somewhat derivative, with the opening track “Carolina Moon” sounding much like The Dillards’ “Dooley,” but they also draw music from other varied sources such as Peter Rowan, Shawn Camp, Gordon Lightfoot, and Bill Monroe. Their cover of the Spencer Brothers’ “Sweetheart Mountain Rose” is quite strong and more traditional sounding. The balance of their original material is marked by strong instrumental fills and breaks and solid vocals. “On A Gravel Road” is a fine modern piece that captures a smooth vibe on the “country life” theme. They are a creative bunch with the songwriting and spiffy arrangements and probably do quite well with live audiences. “Run Riley Run” reveals their love of Celtic music.
CLANNis solo project by Duke Weddington, banjo player with Higher Ground Bluegrass. Members of the band and an assortment of guests appear in support roles. The thing that jumps right out at you with this project are the many 6/8-time pieces (or jigs). This is a time that not many bluegrass players are comfortable playing in, but Weddington is right at home. All of the compositions are Weddington originals. Unusual is a word that keeps coming to mind as the arrangements include uilleann pipes, harmonica, and resonator guitar, along with the usual assortment of bluegrass instruments. He is a highly-accomplished musician and the tunes reflect this with his inventive playing—from newgrass pieces like “Alamance” to the Celtic sounds of “Maddie’s Dream/Erin’s Jig,” on which his banjo glides along with an easy grace. Doug Porter plays a sweet guitar break on the former tune. It’s wild hearing a resonator guitar romp through a jig with a funny title: “Tallen’s Reel (A Jig).”
These are fine recordings from the more progressive side of bluegrass and should appeal to those who are looking for something new and different. Both CDs provide strong programsof highly listenable music. (www.highergroundbluegrass.com)RCB