RICK BARTLEY, RIVER FULL OF BLUES
Rick Bartley has combined five originals with three bluegrass standards and several additional new songs from relatively lesser-known sources to produce what appears to be his first release (the liner notes here are the soul of brevity). The result is a well-performed, pleasant offering of 12 cuts featuring Bartley on guitar and lead and bass vocals, Doug Bartlett on fiddle, mandolin and vocals, Rod Smith on banjo, Albon Clevenger on fiddle, Jayd Raines on bass and vocals, and Randy Graham on vocals.
Among the stronger cuts are Rick Allred’s “Riverboat Fantasy,” Carter Stanley’s “Lonesome Night,” Dallas Frazier’s “Hickory Hollow’s Tramp,” “If You Don’t Have The Heart” from Larry McPeak, and two of Bartley’s own compositions “Ghost Of A Miner” and a very nice “Church By The Side Of The Road.” Bartley has a warm, solid vocal delivery which seems to shine especially on the slower numbers. The harmony work is quite good, and the instrumental support is solid throughout.
A quibble or two: this release would have benefitted from stronger and more varied material (almost two-thirds of the songs have a theme of heartbreak, lonesomeness, and/or lost love), and possibly more attention to mixing and production (there are some places where the lead vocal drops away and is almost inaudible, and there are some curiously long pauses—25 seconds—between cuts). But overall, this is a nice release that fans and friends of the performers, and perhaps a wider audience enjoying the traditional side of bluegrass, should find attractive. (Rick Bartley, 2963 Hwy. 882, Ezel, KY 41425.)AW