Up front, Junior Sisk and Ramblers Choice make their feelings abundantly clear. Opening their third Rebel CD with a Tim Massey/Rick Pardue/Junior Sisk composition, “A Far Cry From Lester And Earl,” they more or less lay it out there, declaring that bluegrass is nothing like it was in the past and wondering how long it will last. Such songs of concern are common in musics of all types, but this one has some clever hooks, both in the wording (We’re way down below that high, lonesome sound) and in the construction (using lines and melody from well-known songs for the second verse, and riding out on “Home, Sweet Home”).
Having made their declaration, Sisk and the band proceed through 12 more cuts that, with the exception of the country-rock colorings of “The Sound Of Your Name,” remain rooted strongly in the traditional sound. “Another Man’s Arms” is a prisoner’s lament song done fast and classic. Two others, “Sea Of Regret” and “String, Eraser And Blotter” recall the three-quarter-time Stanley sound. “String, Eraser And Blotter” is the more colorful and the more interesting of the two, the objects mentioned in the title being things the singer needs to get over a lost love. “Thankful For Each Day,” sung as an a cappella quartet, is the lone gospel tune and a good one, while “Ariadne” is Billy Hawks’ old-sounding fiddle composition. The recording also includes the aforementioned poetic and slow country tune “The Sound Of Your Name” (with guest Rhonda Vincent and a nifty key change in the chorus) and Tom T. and Dixie Hall’s humorous and morbid ballad “The Grave Robber,” both of which, along with “String, Eraser And Blotter” and “A Far Cry From Lester And Earl,” are highlight picks.
With this recording, Sisk continues creating fine traditional-based bluegrass and continues strengthening the Ramblers Choice sound. Both of those things are a great positive to the traditional wing of bluegrass. (Rebel Records, P.O. Box 7405, Charlottesville, VA 22906, www.rebelrecords.com.) BW