From smack dab in the middle of Pennsylvania, the Tussey Mountain Moonshiners leap off the first track with a hard-charging version of “Hello City Limits” that would make Country Gazette proud. Winners of the 2010 DelFest band competition, the Tussey Mountain Moonshiners exude rich talent, enthusiasm, energy, and a wide knowledge of string music with seven nice original pieces (four by Gwen Stimely and a pair from Bryan Homan) as a bonus.
All five members sing lead or harmony, except for guitarist Paul Brigman, giving the Moonshiners a wealth of vocal ensemble combinations. Ten of the thirteen tracks comprising I’m Going Home are vocal numbers. The band manages seven different trios and quartets with four lead singers: banjoist Stimely, guitarist/fiddler Stephen Buckalew, bassman Homan, and Karin Hastings on mandolin, guitar, and fiddle.
Every single cut proves enjoyable. The issue is that the CD comes across as more a collection of good songs and tunes than a coherent album. Self-produced, its sequencing seems like that of a fine stage set rather than a recording project. With admirably equal skill, authenticity, and enthusiasm, the Tussey Mountain Moonshiners, named for where Buckalew grew up, move from bluegrass to old-time to folk/Americana. You’d never know the bluegrass band on “I’ll Just Around” is the string band playing “Rock Andy.”
This abundance of riches, however, has not yet gelled into a Moonshiner sound that carries over from one style to another and one song to the next. By shaping the diversity into a focused method to approach a variety of material with the help of an outside producer, the Tussey Mountain Moonshiners can unleash the potential heard here. (Tussey Mountain Moonshiners, 1212 Pine Cir., Bellefonte, PA 16823, www.tusseymountainmoonshiners.com.) AM