First Randall Hibbitts lands a spot as the bass player for Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys, fulfilling as he states, a “lifelong dream.” Then, he releases his debut solo album, one which should bring him some recognition as a singer. Right now, he must be quite pleased with himself. And rightly so.
As you might expect of a musician so enamored with the Stanley Brothers, there is a wash of their sound to be found among the 12 tracks. But it’s not as prominent as you might think. On just about every track, with the exception of the delightful swing-style cover of Larry McPeak’s “Why You’re Leaving Me This Time,” you can hear Hibbitts phrasing a line or two in Stanley fashion. And several songs—“I Want To Live,” “Girl From The Greenbriar Shore” and Aubrey Holt’s three-quarter time “Memories Of Home”—fit the Stanley style.
Mostly though, Hibbitts is Hibbitts and Stanley is Stanley. Hibbitts has a tone and timbre to his voice that is somewhat dry and at the high end of the mid-range. His delivery is very direct, though not overly powerful or laden with ornamentation. His emotion is rather subtle, but he gets the point of the song across quite well with the anguish of his original “A Soldier’s Song” or the gospel pleading of “I Want To Live” or the zest of the free-wheeling standard “Bound To Ride.” Any of those would be a highlight track, as would “The Preacher” and the catchy “Can’t Take It Anymore.”
Backing him are his nephew Alex Hibbitts on mandolin and guitar, Blake Hopper on banjo, Jeff Partin on resonator guitar, Matt Wallace on bass, and Ron Stewart on fiddle. To this fine first effort, firmly grounded in tradition, but looking ahead, they bring strong chops and a touch of contemporary verve. (facebook.com/randall.hibbitts)BW