In the liner notes to their sophomore album, this Vancouver-based quartet states its musical mission. The bandmembers describe their delightfully retro approach (recording around one microphone) and image (dressing in matching, ties, vests and white shirts) as, “our way of paying tribute to those who have been playing (bluegrass) a lot longer than we have.”
On this count, the Lonesome Town Painters certainly meet, and even surpass, expectations. Their picking, lead singing and harmonies are impeccable. And their original songs (bandmembers wrote nearly all these 13 tracks) are starkly original and emotionally and thematically varied, even as they hew to strict early bluegrass conventions.
Plumb-pitiful testimonials to romantic dysfunction are a mainstay on Play and Sing Bluegrass. “You Belong To Me,” despite its warm and fuzzy title, is about romantic obsession. “All My Dreams Of You (Are Nightmares)” paints a picture of unbearable jealousy, while “Go Ahead And Hurt Me” is full of spiteful anger. “My Own Worst Enemy” is a good, old-fashioned wallow in regret and remorse.
That said, even the most rock-bottom of these tear-jerkers is underpinned by something akin to youthful exuberance and even a hint of tongue-in-cheek. On a softer, gentler note, the Painters also serve up a rousing gospel number (“When He Reached Down His Hand For Me”) and a sprightly instrumental called “Billy Miner.”