For many bands, a long history of comings and goings, false starts, and restarts precedes their debut recording. For Kingsport, Tenn.-based Ridgeline, that odyssey began in 2003, but their first CD is here now and shows the positive results that come from staying with it.
The recording is centered around Jed Patterson, a guitarist with an impressive, obviously Rice-influenced style. He handles all the lead vocals and does so with a smooth, measure and largely non-bluesy delivery, though he does have a tendency to break from his own style and emulate Rice unnecessarily. For the album, he contributed five originals, the two best being his gospel tune “This Hole” and his churning tale of never being given a chance, “You Left Me Behind.” The mandolin and tenor harmonies are in the skillful hands and voice of Rick Pafford. He has a pleasant, melodic approach in both regards. Bill Dunham is on bass and contributes a good baritone that gives the group a silky harmonic blend. Banjoist Chad Light and fiddler Tim Laughlin round out the group with ear-catching instrumental work throughout. Good examples include Light’s stately and clear rendition of the instrumental “Frosty Morning” and Laughlin’s solo on “Dooley.”
To go with the six band originals are several songs you don’t hear too often, plus four oft-recorded standards. Highlights, besides the two aforementioned Patterson originals, include a fantastic and lightly traipsing cover of John Hiatt’s lyrical “Angel Eyes,” a cover of John Pennell’s “Foolish Heart,” and their version of “Dooley,” to which the band gives a thicker, smoother sound more in keeping with the Bluegrass Album Band than with The Dillards. The other standards, though well-done, could have used a bit of thought, arrangement-wise. But that’s just a matter of tweeking and doesn’t diminish this good debut much at all. (Ridgeline, 546 Jackson St., Kingsport, TN 37660, e-mail: [email protected]) BW