JAMIE HARPER, OLD PAL
Mountain Fever Records
Jamie Harper, originally from Mocksville, N.C., is known for his energetic fiddle work with his current bandleader Junior Sisk, along with previous stints with Marty Raybon, Carrie Hassler, and Blue Moon Rising. Rather than an all-instrumental album of fiddle tunes, Harper chose a band approach. He shares lead vocal duties with Sisk and Raybon, plus Eli Johnson and Dustin Pyrtle (both of Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver), and songwriter Daniel Salyer. Harper plays fiddle throughout the project and mandolin on three of twelve cuts. The ensemble also features Jason Davis (banjo) and Kameron Keller (bass), both in Sisk’s band; Keith McKinnon (guitar) of IIIrd Tyme Out; and Kevin McKinnon (mandolin) and Josh Swift (reso-guitar), both members of Quicksilver.
While the bluegrass genre is stretching to include a variety of creative instrumental influences and vocal stylings these days, the driving, soulful music made by this tight-knit circle of friends is pure, unadulterated ’grass from the core of the unbroken circle. Harper’s drag on the bow, rich double-stops, and danceable melodies reflect influences from legendary fiddlers like Benny Martin and Kenny Baker. He leads off with “Booth Shot Lincoln,” a public domain song not done to death. It has an “Angeline The Baker” vibe that swings along like an old oak porch swing.
Dustin Pyrtle sings lead on “To Fly” penned by Josh Miller. The Lonesome River Band has heavily influenced many musicians Jamie’s age, and this modern song with a traditional feel is a good example. Listen for the odd little reprise at the end, when you think it’s over, but it’s not. “A Piece At A Time,” a 3/4 Jimmy Martin-tempo song written by Darryl Mosley, is sung well by Eli Johnson. The narrator’s farm is being sold off a piece at a time, and his heart is breaking in the same manner.
Harper showcases a high range, hard-hitting vocal style on “Enough On My Mind” written by Ronnie Bowman and Timmy Massey. He later scalds off Bill Monroe’s “Goodbye Old Pal,” complete with an athletic yodel at the end of each verse and a satisfyingly abrupt instrumental ending.
“Old Joe Clark” and “Cotton Eyed Joe” are uptempo romps that will make your dancing shoes itch. On the latter, Josh Swift rips through a jaw-dropping break, and the fiddle stomps through the familiar tune.
Junior Sisk sings lead on the Larry Sparks song “Goodbye Little Darlin’,” and the backup work from Jamie on fiddle and Jason Davis on banjo is superb. Sisk also renders a gospel number from Bill Monroe and Howard Watts, “Remember The Cross.”
Daniel Salyer sings lead on his own “Till I Was Gone,” reminiscent of Craig Market/Ronnie Bowman style of songwriting. Dustin Pyrtle leads on the familiar “Her Memory’s Bound To Ride,” penned by T. Michael Coleman and Lou Reid, and Marty Raybon power sings through the New Grass Revival classic “This Heart Of Mine.” Hardcore bluegrass fans interested in new talent may want to check out this album, as well as the participating musicians in their respective bands. Their futures are so bright, they all need to wear shades. (Mountain Fever Records, 1177 Alum Ridge Rd. NW, Willis, VA 24380, www.mountainfever.com.)NC