Bell Buckle Records
This West Virginia band presents a powerful program with tight arrangements and some hot guests that provide some great music. Steve Harris (guitar), Ryan Mullins (mandolin), Matt Hickman (banjo), and Jacob Bly (bass) form the nucleus of the band. They received help most notably from Chris Sexton on fiddle and Gaven Largent on resonator guitar. Bill Vaughn adds some piano, and Con Burch fills out the harmony on a couple of tracks.
The program consists of a nice mixture of newer and older material. The heavily pulsed “Paradise” adds an edge to this now classic coal country lament. “Mississippi Queen” is an effective reworking of the Boone Creek classic. The title-song along with “Cold Dark Ground” are from songwriter Mark Brinkman. There are several songs listed as public domain that highlight the rooted song sources, even if the interpretations are contemporary and rather flashy. “Working On A Building,” “Bury Me Beneath The Willow,” and “House Of The Rising Sun” all receive new arrangements that bring them into the new century.
This band has a lot of talent. Their sound is helped by the guests, but they’re great pickers themselves and prove it. They play in the mode of New Grass Revival without being derivative. The excellent arrangements and fine vocals throughout combined with their superior instrumental chops make for some fun listening. The instrumental “Whimsical” by Steve Harris features a refreshing bit of guitar playing. This is quite an enjoyable set of modern bluegrass. (Bell Buckle Records, P.O. Box 142, Bell Buckle, TN 37020, www.bellbucklerecords.org.)RCB