This is the fourth release from Truman’s Ridge. There are 14 tracks. Eight are band originals, while among the remaining six tracks are two Bill Monroe songs (“Dark As The Night And Blue As The Day,” and “Blue And Lonesome”), the “Red Hen Boogie” and the nod-to-the-crowd choice, “Fox On The Run.” Two others, both gospel tunes, are more recently written.
From this quartet comes a sound characterized by wide spacing of the instruments. The bass being prominent on the majority of the tracks contrasts with the favoring of the higher strings by the mandolin and with the fair amount of single string work and slowly-articulated rolls from the banjo and adds to that openness. The musical lines are also kept to a simpler form and that, too, contributes to the separation. That results in a more relaxed, loose feel, one that works particularly well on their laconic and harmonica-backed cover of “Dark As…” and on the good humor of “Red Hen Boogie” and on their originals “Louisiana Swing” and “Mexican Prison.”
Vocally, they offer a smoother more urban sound, one tempered with tradition and blues. The band promo notes cite folk influences, and that proves true on quite a few tracks. Their original “Alone” certainly leans that way, as does original “Why Do You Cry,” one of the highlight tracks if only for the oddly-shifting and compelling melody line found in the chorus. You can also hear folk in the way they alter the melody of “Blue And Lonesome.” For contrast, other tracks are colored with melodic ideas based in pop music of the ’60s, most notably the West Coast bluegrass-style “Mexican Prison” and the almost Monkees-influenced stylings of “Sweet Sallie Mae.” In an age of similar approaches, it’s good to hear a band with a different aim and result. (Truman’s Ridge, 1580 John St., Sycamore, IL 60178, www.trumansridge.com.)BW