Mountain Fever Records

Noticeably diminished on this new CD from Volume Five is the lighter more lilting material that graced their previous release. That change of direction can, in part, be traced to the departure of singer/guitarist Adam Duke. On the last recording, Duke alternated the lead singing duties with fiddler Glen Harrell and, with his thinner, reedier voice, was primarily assigned the softer more flowing numbers. Now he’s gone, and while Harrell can sing in that style, and does so effectively on the opener, “Son Of Hickory Holler’s Tramp,” and later on “See The Big Man Cry,” his more resonant and more commanding voice seems to demand songs with a darker story line. Such tracks as “Rich Man’s Daughter” (by former guitarist Colby Laney), “Run” (from mandolinist Jesse Daniel, who has since left the band), and “Thorn Tree Shade” (from Kyle Burnett), with their tales of love gone wrong, escaping the chain gang, and murder, answer that demand, as does Carter Stanley’s classic “Little Willie.”

With that change has also come a shift toward a more contemporary feel. Where the previous CD, when not lilting and flowing, still seemed predominantly grounded in traditional bluegrass, here the majority of the songs look to the present. “Rich Man’s Daughter,” full of atmospheric production techniques and a funky rhythm underscored by ticka-ticka-CHOP mandolin, is the most obvious example, but a definite modernity colors most of the album. The sound is overall tougher, driven by the prominence of newcomer Jeff Partin’s resonator guitar and by the emergence of Patton Wages, who has intensified and made more crisp his banjo playing.

The only real negative is the inclusion of “Paradise” and “Fox On The Run.” Even most beginner bands would probably avoid rehashing those warhorses. Though there are twelve tracks, think of this as a good ten-song disc. (Mountain Fever Records, 1177 Alum Ridge Rd., Willis, VA 24380, www.mountainfever.com.)BW

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