With its fourth album, this six-man “Carolina-style-grass” band of super pickers once again displays its flair for seamless instrumental prowess, exemplary song choices, soulful singing and overall nonpareil musicianship.
Front And Centerkicks off with “Thunder Dan” (written by Josh Manning), a bruising, tongue-in-cheek story-song about a mythical mountain man so ornery and hard-bitten that he even kills a preacher who tries to change his evil ways. Sideline works out in a more laconic and tender groove with exquisite renderings of the Gordon Lightfoot classic “Song For A Winter’s Night,” Dudley Connell’s mournful “Memories That We Shared” and “Something Out Of Nothing,” an outstanding ballad of world-weary heartbreak penned by Louanne Welcome and John Morreau. Just as moving is “Frozen In Time” (Mark “Brink” Brinkman) which painfully reminds us that our memories are often the only piece of the past we can ultimately hold on to.
Back on the darker and more spooky side are a pair of angst-ridden, semi-fatalistic odes: a murder ballad called “All Because Of Me” (Darrell Webb and Lemuel Curry) and the haunting “Satan’s Chains” (Carl V. Goodman). There’s not a cut on this 12-song selection that doesn’t deserve similar praise. All in all, Sideline’s music, particularly its instrumental work, is as powerful as a 400-horsepower John Deere tractor and as precise as a $3,000 wristwatch.
It’s only now and then that all the power and precision threatens to slightly overshadow the rustic charm and emotion of the vocals and the songs themselves. (Mountain Home, P.O. Box829, Arden, NC 28704, www.mountainhomemusiccompany.com)BA