Mountain Fever Records

On this the second solo release from current Junior Sisk & Rambler’s Choice banjoist Jason Davis, there are numerous tracks on which the music is as powerful and engrossing as anything in bluegrass today. On those tracks, Davis and his band of guests get you in such a mesmerizing headlock, you’re almost to the point of crying “uncle.”

That is certainly the case with three of the four instrumentals. The first, “Bully Of The Town,” a storied tune so often played, has never sounded any better. Davis evades the usual ragtime strut in favor of one that’s all blister and burn and pure drive. Excellent solo turns from resonator guitarist Josh Swift and from the ever-present, always-on fiddler Ron Stewart compliment Davis’ clear and precise noting and keep the tune at fever pitch. A few tracks later is the banjo and fiddle duet “Liberty,” again with Stewart. While the track is not as fiery as that of the Tom Adams/Michael Cleveland rendition of a few years back, its flowing, almost hypnotic lilt, puts it on equal footing. The album then closes out with a torrid, though all-too-short cover of “Shamrock” with Aaron Ramsey on mandolin.

Among the vocal numbers of similar temperament and interest are Darrell Webb’s version of “Where The Wild River Rolls,” the Shawn Lane/Steve Gulley version of “Bootleg John” and, most impressively, Junior Sisk’s reading of A.P. Carter’s “Just Another Broken Heart.” What those have in common is energy and grit, just the kind of tune Davis handles best. Slower and less feisty are “One More Rocky Road” and the remake of “Oh Death.” For those accustomed to the Ralph Stanley classic, the latter may come as a surprise, but should be welcomed for its change of pace. Those eight tracks are countered by a few weaker efforts, but manage to keep this entertaining recording rolling. (Mountain Fever Records, 1177 Alum Ridge Rd., Willis, VA 24380, www.mountainfever.com.)BW

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