On any given night nationwide, local bands are having a go at their own take on bluegrass, putting in four sets at a local nightspot or restaurant. The Apostles of Bluegrass from Mansfield, Ga., sixty miles east of Atlanta, are one such band, and this is a composite from several live shows they performed in the nearby towns of Suwanee and Decatur at Eddie’s Attic and Everett’s Music Barn, respectively. In the band are Johnny Roquemore on lead vocals and guitar, Dave Ross on vocals, bass, banjo, and resonator guitar, and John Nipper on vocals, banjo, mandolin, and harmonica. Half the 16 songs are originals, though who wrote what isn’t noted.
Largely, the Apostles are at their best on the slower tunes and medium tempo tunes, and also on tunes that fall outside a bluegrass beat. “Sixteen Tons,” “Angel From Montgomery,” “Don’t Think Twice,” and “Proud Mary” all fall in that category. Not only do those songs highlight Roquemore’s throaty and all-knowing vocals to best effect, but they also offer the band a chance to create a more cohesive rhythm structure, for example, when they use a closed-chord guitar rhythm on “Sixteen Tons.” They do, however, give a nice reading to a somewhat uptempo “Little Mountain Church House,” performed as a trio of resonator, mandolin, and guitar with vocals. “Salty Dog Blues” is also pretty good.
The originals tackle such subjects as the wonders of “Duck Tape,” the joy of looking through the hole in “Grandma’s Wooden Leg,” and enumerating a catalog of how you know you’re “In The South,” including finding the late Dale Earnhardt on the pole. While none of them are what you’d call classics of songwriting, they’re all in good fun, and that’s what this album represents as a whole—an evening of good fun. (R-Way Music, P.O. Box 24, Mansfield, GA 30055, www.apostlesofbluegrass.com.)BW