JOHNNY CAMPBELL AND THE BLUEGRASS DRIFTERS
It’s refreshing to hear traditional bluegrass played with drive and vigor and sung from the heart. This outfit does just that. Out of the gate, they hit it hard with the old number “Gospel Plow.” They have picked some fine gems to include on this project, such as “Hard Times Sometimes,” Curly Seckler’s fine song via Flatt & Scruggs—“Old Book Of Mine,” Monroe’s “Letter From My Darlin’,” and Jimmy Martin’s “Future On Ice.” Campbell renders some fine tunes and great bluegrass fiddling throughout.
Recorded live, we get a solid, gritty sound that cuts to the core. There’s an extensive cast of pickers helping out the band, and all do a superior job. They catch the flavor of traditional grass, getting to the core of the sound without slavish imitation. The band dynamics are superior, and it’s obvious these players have worked together quite a bit. At the core of the band’s sound are the vocals from Johnny and Whitney Campbell who also play fiddle and bass respectively. They are fine musicians and sincere singers. At times, Johnny’s voice veers from the note he’s holding, lessening the power of his vocals. Otherwise, they catch the power of the mountain roots of bluegrass. Chris Henry provides some fine Monroe-esque mandolin on several cuts that adds to that power.
While some bands try to present punk versions of the old-time bluegrass and others try to bring it up-to-date, this band takes on the material on its terms and meets it head on with earnestness and honesty. You have to love that. With some fine-tuning of the vocals, these folks will be hard to beat. Meanwhile, the fiddling and picking stands with the best out there. (Johnny Campbell, 1107 N. 2nd St., Nashville, TN 37207, www.thebluegrassdrifters.com.)RCB