This is a new group that has a super abundance of talent, and this is a debut recording that shows that talent many times over.
Start with Keith Garrett, former guitarist for Blue Moon Rising. He’s the centerpiece voice, singing lead on seven of the album’s thirteen tracks and displaying a clear, polished middle register. He brings intensity when needed, as on the tale of a man confessing on the stand to murdering his cheating wife on “December 13th,” suppressed anguish when a song such as the lilting “Hurtin’ Inside” calls for it, and yearning when relating the life of a man who everyone thinks a potential star, but who “Never Played The Opry.” He can sing country. He can sing straight traditional. He can sing in a contemporary style—all with conviction. And he wrote five of the songs.
Then there is John Bowman, the group’s fiddler and tenor. Also clear and smooth, but a bit more high-lonesome in sound. He sings two: the dark but positive message song “In God’s Hands,” and the album’s only true standard, “Log Cabin In The Lane.” To mandolinist Adam Steffey with his lower, softer voice are given two of the most traditional sounding songs, one new, one old. The first is Ron Block’s “You Can Take Your Time,” a tune that sounds happy melodically, but is really about a man losing his girl and telling her how quick to come back. The other is Earl Taylor’s semi-classic, “I Could Change My Mind.” Taylor’s version was more forceful, but Steffey brings to it a welcome nuance and wistfulness. Banjoist Ron Stewart has the low lead, the growly, gritty timbre that suits the growly, gritty boast about living life “The Hard Way.” Only bassist Harold Nixon doesn’t handle a lead, but he’s busy footing the solid rhythm for this fine debut of good singing, good writing, diversity of style and, of course, instrumental work to rival any in the business. (Crossroads Music, P.O. Box 829, Arden NC 28704, www.crossroadsmusic.com.) BW