Beautiful slow-tempo songs distinguish Volume Five’s latest The Drifter. Those eight titles, featuring effective use of Glen Harrell’s always excellent vocals, make it an album well worth hearing. They craft a wonderful arrangement for the gospel “When I Go Away” with a lovely semi-call and response portion. The backup instrumentally and vocally are precise and fitting. Five years ago, I called for Volume Five to develop a distinctive sound using their clear talent. They have done that, as you can hear on this album.
Only Harrell, once the fiddler for Marty Raybon & Full Circle, remains from the band that recorded Down In A Cell, although banjoman Patton Wages had joined by the time it was released. In addition by subtraction. Harrell is now the lead singer, and one of the finest to emerge recently. Soulful and expressive, well-suited for slower tempos, he makes Volume Five an important bluegrass band. Check out “Lonely Wind” or “When I Go Away” for two examples of wonderful delivery of very good songs. The band supports the singer and strong material that plays to their strengths.
The Drifter offers just four up-tempo songs. Two—the instrumental “Lucky Seven” by guitarist Colby Laney and the closing I-done-wrong-and-I’m-on-the-run song “With My Gun”—work very well. Unlike the other ten cuts, Volume Five ruins the opening song, Donna Ulisse’s “I Am A Drifter” and “95 Years” with too-busy playing. You don’t know whether to listen to the singing or the picking and end up hearing neither, just a jumble of sound. Still, five-sixths of a brilliant album is a lot better than most folks do. (Mountain Fever, 1177 Alum Ridge Rd., Willis, VA 24380, www.mountainfever.com.)AM