The last Grascals release moved them closer to Americana. The drums were more upfront, the songs somewhat harder-edged. The question was, where would their next recording take them? Well, just as “Life Finds A Way,” life sometimes gets in the way. Longtime members Jamie Johnson and Jeremy Abshire left the group. With their departure went the drums, completely, and also the direction the band was heading.
What remains, however, is still The Grascals. As best exemplified by “Sweet Mountain Girl,” “I Like Trains,” and their solid cover of Monroe’s “Highway Of Sorrow,” they lean a little more toward bluegrass than some past recordings. New lead singer/guitarist John Bryan, with his smooth, higher-end lead, gives them that option. And yet, their sound remains largely familiar, full of Dillards/Country Gazette/Osborne colorings, great harmony, Terry Eldredge’s warm leads, and impeccable instrumental contributions from Kristin Benson, Terry Smith, and Danny Roberts.
One need listen no further than the opener “I Know Better.” Bryan sings the lead, but the sound is pure Grascals, upbeat and melodic all the way. The propulsive forward-rolling quality is irresistible. That’s followed by the positive message of “Road Of Life.” Eldredge takes the lead and new addition Adam Haynes adds some exceptionally sweet fiddle, making this a highlight. Then comes Harley Allen’s “True Hearts.” Perhaps not his best, but a good song nonetheless and continuing a long-standing Grascals tradition. The rest of the way we get several soft, country-styled tracks (“Old Friend Of Mine,” “If You Want Me To,” and “A Place To Hang My Hat”) interspersed with the Osborne-style of “Delta Queen,” the slightly bluesy “I Like Trains,” and Bryan’s solid cover of “Highway Of Sorrow.” This seems a much better direction than where their last recording was taking them. (Mountain Home Music Company, P.O. Box 829, Arden, NC 28704, www.mountainhomemusiccompany.com.)BW