Bluegrass 43 – The Witch
Since Bluegrass 43 has not had a new recording on the market since 1989, a brief re-introduction seems in order. Formed in 1977 in France, the group has had at least two previous CDs to their name—Country Swing and Old Old Truck—and currently consists of bassist/vocalist Alain Audras, banjoist/vocalist Jean-Marc Delon, guitarist/vocalist Jean-Paul Delon and mandolinist/vocalist Phillippe Ochin. Ochin sings all the leads.
Six songs, totaling seventeen minutes, comprise their new release, ranging in style from the uptempo, tradition of “Never Again,” a tune recorded by the Stanleys and by Bill Monroe in the early 1960s, to the lullaby country of “Carolina Star” and to the Beatles’ country-rock of “I’ve Just Seen A Face.” While all of them make for pleasant listening, vocally the lighter, more pop-oriented tunes succeed the best. A song such as “I’ve Just Seen A Face” or Raul Malo’s (of the Mavericks) “Mr. Jones” is a perfect vehicle for Ochin’s smooth, melodic lead and for the band’s tight, gentle harmonies. “Never Again,” on the other hand, needs a bit more bite. Applying smooth vocals to it undercuts the traditional feel the song needs and which the band creates instrumentally.
Speaking of the instrumental side, it must be said that Jean-Paul Delon’s guitar work grabs the center stage. The other players put forth solid chops, but Delon’s guitar overflows with bright and twisting lines and crackles with Pat Flynn-like snap, giving a lift to what is an overall average-to-good recording. (www.bluegrass43.com) BW