The number of former members who’ve cycled through the Lonesome River Band since its founding 35 years ago is in the dozens. Through it all, it’s been banjo master Sammy Shelor, who’s kept a sure and steady hand on the tiller. Nearly 20 albums into the game, LRB has never sounded better or played with more exhilaration. The 13 song choices on Mayhayley’s House are spot-on, and the music sparkles with emotional nuance and rustic beauty, not to mention an almost organic authenticity.
It’s hard to pick standouts here. But for starters, there’s a brilliant ballad of love, loss, and painful nostalgia called “Old Coyote Town” (co-written by Larry E. Boone, Gene Nelson, and Paul N. Nelson, Jr.) and “Diggin’” (Eli Johnston and Kevin McKinnon), a plum-pitiful lament of a man on a comically self-defeating losing streak. There’s also an eerie murder ballad called “Blackbirds And Crows” (Don Humphries) that’s recounted with such disarming nonchalance that it makes it all the more sinister. The heartwarming everyday drama of “Hickory Hollow Times And County News” (Matthew Lindsey and Herb McCullough) sounds ripped right from the headlines of a small-town newspaper. Yet another delight is LRB’s reprise of Melba Montgomery’s “As The Crow Flies.”
Although, nothing tops the title tune, written by Adam Wright. (It has a whole back story of its own that I don’t have time or the space to get into here). It’s a true story charged with mystery and emotion, and it encapsulates the rustic beauty that prevails throughout this entire album. (Mountain Home, P.O. Box 829, Arden, NC 28704, www.mountainhomemusiccompany.com.)BA