This Canadian band is ostensibly old-time, but they’re iconoclastic in their approach. Any good song, regardless of origin, is fodder for their imagination. Drawing from some of the more outrageous ideas of the great folk scare of the 1960s, they present an aural journey through a wide range of material. How wide you ask? The first three cuts come from Gus Cannon and his Jug Stompers, The Stanley Brothers, and Lhasa de Sela. All three of these artist’s work is treated with deep respect without a hint of imitation. The very next cut is one of the hottest versions of “Cluck Old Hen” one is apt to hear.
What makes this band so different? Well, it’s a trio of fiddle (John Showman), banjo (Chris Coole), and bass (Max Heineman). They may use some guitar, but not often. They don’t need it. Coole’s banjo and Showman’s fiddle set the stage for Marty Robbins’ “Big Iron,” and it works very well. Everything works on this recording. No cut sounds like any version you ever heard before, and you won’t mind. They cover the Carter Family and do a medley of farewell tunes (“Highlander’s Farewell”/“Monroe’s Farewell To Long Hollow”) that will take your breath away. They recast Hazel Dickens’ a cappella “Black Lung” with chords and powerful vocal harmonies. They do honky-tonk with aplomb on “The Only Other Person In The Room.”
Like all great bluegrass, these guys reach significant emotional depths with their delivery. Whether singing about true love, false love, the cost of dangerous work, or pain that comes with life, they cut to the core. They can also turn and churn out a tune with so much verve that it will make your head and heart spin. Great stuff and just unorthodox enough to be brilliant. The packaging, like an LP, has a paper sleeve for the disc held in a cardboard outer sleeve and, of course, the not so subtle colors of another time. (www.lonesomeace.com)RCB