Mountain Fever Records
Four times, I’ve had the welcome opportunity to review a CD from Volume Five. Setting aside their 2014 gospel recording, simply because gospel recordings tend to have a different feel and approach, their second and third releases were distinguished by alternate use of light, tradition-based bluegrass set against contemporary offerings that made use of a heavier, more modal sound to underscore the tension of the song. There were usually four or five band originals, and there were two to four standards.
With this recording, their fifth, the standards have been eliminated, replaced by lesser-recorded material and newly-written songs. Among them is the album’s opener and one of its highlight tracks, “King Of California.” Written by Dave Alvin formerly of The Blasters, it’s a fine example of capturing the feel of an older style of writing, that of using a bright melody with a dark subject. It has classic potential in it, and Volume Five brings that out readily.
There are five originals, two of them from guitarist Colby Laney, including the original “Sam’s Gap” which centers around passages of repeated notes that propel the tune and attractively counter the more complex contrasting lines. The other three come from resonator guitarist Jeff Partin. Four of those five fall in that contemporary modal style. Their one negative is that they have a similar melodic feel, though the misdirection of the intro and segues of “Going Across The Mountain” is distinctive. Balancing that are the lighter, tradition-based tunes such as the Rhonda Vincent-led gospel tune “Daddy Was An Old Time Preacher Man” and Randall Hylton’s medium and Quicksilver-like “Dream Softly.” They work well with a couple of lighter, contemporary tunes, “Strangest Dreams” and the folkish “Colder And Colder.” By eliminating the warhorses, Volume Five has tweaked its approach just enough to focus our attention more on the band. The result is one of their best albums to date. (Mountain Fever Records, 1177 Alum Ridge Rd., Willis, VA 24380, www.mountainfever.com.)BW