JEFF BROWN AND STILL LONESOME, BLUE SIDE OF ME
Mountain Fever Records
Jeff Brown and Still Lonesome perform bluegrass in a straightforward, traditional style that conjures up visions of Larry Sparks’ Lonesome Ramblers and Ralph Stanley’s Clinch Mountain Boys. Individual vocal credits are not given, but it appears Jeff Brown sings all the leads (possibly excepting the gospel song “Come To Me”), with harmony by bassist Austin Brown, mandolinist Jeff Blankenship, banjoist Josh Underwood, and Noah Brown. Meredith Goins plays fiddle throughout, and Wyatt Rice and Tina Steffey contribute the occasional guitar and clawhammer banjo break, respectively.
Both the lead and harmony vocals are all solid throughout the 12 cuts here, and the instrumental work is first-rate. There are several notable cuts on this release, such as “The Water And The Mud,” one of two contributions by Tim Toliver, which refers to an earth-dam washout in 1984, and it would be interesting to know the background story (there are unfortunately no notes on the songs). “Weary Pilgrim Welcome Home” and “Lonesome Fugitive,” (the latter popularized by Merle Haggard) are quite well done, as is “Last Day At Gettysburg” and Larry Sparks’ “These Old Blues.” Jeff Brown co-wrote four of the cuts—“Blue Side Of Me,” “Virginia I Hear You Calling Me,” “These Old Mountain Ways,” and “Coal Mining Town”—all of which are nicely crafted songs.
While the proceedings here could have benefitted from more variety in the tempo of the selections (the first 11 cuts are generally moderate to slow) and possibly in the subject material (three or four songs, for example, are of the I-miss-the-old-days/ways/places genre), there is a lot to like about this release, especially if one’s taste is for the traditional end of the bluegrass spectrum. A nice effort by Jeff Brown and his band. (Jeff Brown, 798 Ratcliff Ln., Cedar Bluff, VA 24609, www.jeffbrownandstilllonesome.com.)AW