One of the best “going home” songs of recent vintage opens the new recording from Wildfire. “Home Again” is a gentle medium loper, very smooth and impossible not to like. It calls to mind the work of The Grascals album of a couple releases back. They don’t sound like The Grascals in any overt way. The vocals, particularly the lead of guitarist Robert Hale, are definitely different, as are the playing styles of bassist Curt Chapman, mandolinist Chris Davis, fiddler Greg Luck and banjoist John Lewis.
That feel carries over into the next song, “A Bible And A Bus Ticket Home.” Again, instant rapport. So, too, on “They Don’t Make ’Em Like Daddy Anymore,” and “The Ghost Of Jim Bob Wilson.” In fact, the same can be said of just about all the songs included, be it the classic covers such as the Stanleys’ “Nobody’s Love Is Like Mine” or The Boxtops rock hit “The Letter,” which you would expect to feel a quick affinity to, but also on the stompin’ and bluesy “Dollar” or the relaxed country flow of “Small Enough To Crawl.”
Most of this emanates from the lead vocals. Yes, song selection and arranging and instrumentation are important, but the lead voice draws the attention. Robert Hale’s voice has an angst and flutter at times that makes it instantly recognizable and pulls you in. For that reason, along with the playing and arranging and good songs, this album deserves high praise. (Pinecastle Records, 2514 River Road, Ste. 105, Piedmont, NC 29673, www.pinecastlemusic.com.)BW