The 25-year career of the Lonesome River Band is a study in durability and adaptation in the face of repeated line-up changes. The one constant has been the steady guiding hand of founding member and master banjoist Sammy Shelor, the only original member still on board. Since 1991, as numerous members have come and gone—Dan Tyminski, Don Rigsby, Ronnie Bowman, and Tim Austin among them—Shelor has kept the band vital and innovative by bringing out the best in each new personnel configuration.
LRB’s—and Shelor’s—resilience shines through again on Bridging The Tradition, the band’s 17th album since its 1991 breakout with Carrying The Tradition. The emotional range on the new album is, as always, impressive, and the song choices and performances are predictably impeccable. On the soulful side of the equation, there’s “Rocking Of The Cradle” (penned by Kim Williams and Doug Johnson), a profoundly stirring anthem of affirmation. There’s also the sardonic “Boats Up The River,” a traditional lament tinged with raw fatalism and despair. “Showing My Age” (co-written by LRB guitarist/vocalist Brandon Rickman and Jerry Salley) and “Mirrors Never Lie” (penned by Rickman and Larry Cordle) are a pair of starkly introspective reveries.
On the lighter and livelier side, there’s a stirring bootlegger’s saga called “Thunder & Lightning” (Adam Wright), a rollicking reprise of the Carter Stanley chestnut “Rock Bottom” and a wryly humorous commentary called “Real People” (also from the able pen of Adam Wright). (Mountain Home, P.O. Box 829, Arden, NC 28704 www.mountainhomemusiccompany.com.)BA