Byron Berline built a good bit of his reputation playing in and among the California bluegrass and country rock bands of the ’60s and ’70s. Those bands had an affinity for bright, pop-influenced melodies and backing. They also didn’t shy away from covering rock tunes, nor from using drums.
All of that and more makes up the major part of the sound of this project. It was recorded in Oklahoma, but it may as well have been California circa 1973—drums, cymbals, and all. You can hear it right from the opening Berline fiddle instrumental “Up And Down The River,” which has the wonderful feel of “Keep On Pushin’” from the Country Gazette era. This leads right to a string of rock-tune covers, including “Never Ending Love,” “Hello Mary Lou,” “Memphis,” a slightly “up” version of “Wild Horses,” “Last Train To Clarksville,” the Yardbirds’ “Heart Full Of Soul,” and the Beatles’ “Run For Your Life.” They also cover two traditional songs, “Dark Hollow” and “Farther Along.”
At times, Berline and his band (Greg Burgess on fiddle and guitar, Jim Fish on guitar, John Hickman on banjo, Richard Sharp on bass, and Steve Short on tasteful drums) weave in touches of the Country Gazette, the Kentucky Colonels (with Fish hinting at Roland White’s lead vocals), and the Dillards (on “Dark Hollow”).
The few songs that break from the California sound reflect Berline’s Oklahoma background with a nod toward western swing. Those tracks include “Oklahoma Hills,” a lovely version of “Yearning,” and a Berline original, “Cherokee.” All three leave you wanting more of that style. (Double Stop Music, 121 E. Oklahoma, Guthrie OK 73044, www.doublestop.com.) BW