Corvus Records CR024
West Coast bluegrass has always suffered from a lack of respect. From the Kentucky Colonels to Muleskinner to Old & In The Way to Psychograss, somehow the music made by these ultra-talented bands couldn’t be true-blue bluegrass to some fans. It’s as if you can’t play actual bluegrass, in some people’s minds, if you’re from anyplace west of Owensboro.
John Reischman knows this, all too well. He and his superb band, the Jaybirds, play a distinctly Western/Northern brand of bluegrass, as only befits a group of musicians hailing from the Left Coast of the U.S. and Canada. From the lilting, gorgeous voice of bassist Trisha Gagnon to Jim Nunally’s rock-ribbed rhythm guitar and cliché-exterminating solos to the awesome talents of banjo player Nick Hornbuckle and fiddler Greg Spatz, the Jaybirds easily play some of the finest bluegrass and traditional music on the scene today. And yet they get mostly ignored in the mainstream bluegrass world.
On That Other Green Shore, the band’s seventh album, would be a great place for that attitude to mature. Melding hard-won bluegrass chops, great songwriting, superb ensemble playing, and a tight-knit sound many bands never achieve, John Reischman and the Jaybirds have forged a unique and utterly engaging style that should appeal to fans of first-generation bluegrass to those seeking more modern tones. Listen to Reischman, surely the most toneful mandolinist in bluegrass, render his original tune “Red Diamond” with the force and impetus of a coal train winding down an Appalachian mountainside. Or consider “Righten That Wrong Someday” on which Greg Spatz lays down some seriously fine bluegrass fiddle as Trisha sings a world-weary bluegrass plea.
Another Reischman original, “Daylighting The Creek,” could easily become a standard campfire tune as more mandolinists pick up its clever melody and driving beat. Jim Nunnally imparts a glorious flatpicking guitar solo here that hews back to the glory days of early bluegrass guitar. And his dry tenor voice is the perfect foil for Gagnon’s engaging harmony on his original tune “Gonna Walk.” Likewise, she and Reischman offer up a cool harmony version of the Lennon/McCartney classic “Two Of Us” that will appeal to fans of more modern bluegrass right down to Hornbuckle’s clever insertion of a melodic quote in his solo.
On That Other Green Shore is another classic album from John Reischman and the Jaybirds, filled with clever arrangements, class-leading singing and playing, wonderful originals, and fine interpretations of traditional tunes. The mountains that they call home may be along the Pacific Coast instead of Eastern Kentucky, but the music they play rings clear and true from sea to shining sea. (www.thejaybirds.com)DJM