This is the first release from this South Carolina band. Banjo builder Steve Wilson leads the group that includes Joey Newton on guitar and vocals and ETSU student Sarah Logan on fiddle and vocals. A visit to the their website indicates there have been numerous personnel changes since this recording, but that doesn’t diminish this project one bit.
This is a first-rate recording, with the band singing and playing on a high level. This first release on Pinecastle’s Bonfire label features the strong, yet understated singing of Sarah Logan on an original interpretation of “Catfish John,” as well as a fine rendition of “Her Sunday Best.” Guitarist Joey Newton does a fine job on “Carolina In The Pines” and “Stranded.” His guitar playing is spot on. Banjo picker Steve Wilson sings on an original, “Shiners Mountain,” and also wrote the instrumental in this set, “East Fork Creek.” Brandon Crouch holds down the mandolin slot and sings on four numbers, including the kickoff number “40 Years Of Trouble.” His playing is clean and tasteful. Michael Branch plays rock-solid bass with a flare that brings fire to the pocket of the groove.
The project is well-programmed and moves along very nicely. The songs range from Flatt & Scruggs’ “I’ll Stay Around,” which is played with the banjo behind the beat for interesting affect, to the old gospel gem “Ain’t No Grave” that features another of Logan’s vocals. The balance of material is an interesting array of more recent songs. It’s solid, contemporary bluegrass strongly rooted in the tradition, but not afraid to reach out and push the boundaries of the music. They know how to get ’er done and prove it time and time again. Recommended to fans of straight-ahead bluegrass. Look for this exciting band on the festival circuit this summer. (Bonfire, 2514 River Rd., Ste. 105, Piedmont, NC 29673, www.bonefirerecording.com.)RCB