ALAN BIBEY AND GRASSTOWNE
Mountain Fever Records
At the time of this recording, Grasstowne was essentially mandolinist Alan Bibey, banjoist Justin Jenkins, and bassist Kameron Keller, all holdovers from 2011’s Kickin’ Up Dust . The guitar and fiddle slots were open.
As such, guest musicians and former members were brought in to fill the vacancies. Fiddler Adam Haynes, an alumnus of Kickin’ Up Dust, turns up on “This Old Guitar And Me,” one of two singles from the project getting some deserved recognition. Ronnie Bowman joins on that track as a guest lead vocalist. The other single is the bluesy and powerful 3/4-time “Cold Dark Ground” sung by another former member, Blake Johnson, and backed by guest Ron Stewart on fiddle and guitar. Stewart appears on all but two tracks and is, as usual, stellar. Shannon Slaughter, who had a stint with the group in recent years, is also on most of the tracks as a harmony singer.
Despite not having a complete Grasstowne lineup for any one track, the music here is high level throughout and largely consistent with the band’s sound. Having three-fourths of a lineup and having Stewart is key. The other key is good material. “Cry Baby Cry” is a grinding medium-tempo number written by Elmer Burchette, a master of that style of song. Bibey gives it his most attacking lead vocal to date and throws in a mandolin solo to match. “You Can Feel It In Your Soul” is a spirited Flatt & Scruggs gospel number not covered too often, followed by Wes Golding’s “I’m Country” given a blend of contemporary touches and ’70s bluegrass. Also of note are the swing beat and melodic pattern of “You Let Me Down” and the half-time vocals over torrid accompaniment on the Kim Fox, Bibey, and Bowman original “Can’t Stop The Rain.” (Mountain Fever Records, 1177 Alum Ridge Rd. NW, Willis, VA 24380, www.mountainfever.com.)BW