Even with John Bowman’s departure in 2014, The Boxcars keep impressively rolling on. Their latest recording is every bit as rewarding for the listener and as deeply rooted in the band’s signature sound as any of their previous releases. Light when called for, dark when necessary. Always bottom-end propulsive and percussive thanks to Harold Nixon’s excellent bass contributions.
Bowen’s replacement, Gary Hultman, is equal to the task, his resonator guitar giving the band some extra pop rhythmically and a new sound dimension overall. Keith Garrett jumps up here and there with a high lead, most effectively on “When The Bluegrass Is Covered With Snow.” And, of course, Ron Stewart contributes an excellent fiddle solo when needed.
The song selection is engaging. Garrett’s cover of Townes Van Zandt’s coal-mining elegy is powerful. “Hogan’s Goat” is a good mandolin instrumental that features some of Garrett’s best guitar work and some expert fiddling from Stewart in lieu of his banjo. Writer Chris West’s bright, traditional song, “I’m Dreaming Of You,” is also well-covered by the band.
Better still are the two Adam Steffey leads: “Raised On Pain” (also written by West) details a man so downtrodden, he no longer notices, and “Cold Hard Truth” admonishes that life goes up and down, so get used to it. Equal to them are Garrett’s slow, wistful meditation on losing a high-flying life and again becoming “Familiar With The Ground,” along with his bluesy tragedy song about loss, “Let The Water Wash Over Me.” Those four give this highly listenable recording that much more of a reason to recommend it. (Mountain Home, P.O. Box 829 Arden, NC 28704, www.mountainhomemusic.com.)BW