SIDELINE, SESSION 2
Mountain Fever Record
As the name suggests, Sideline intended to be a sometime band, but the success of their debut album made Sideline a main line. Now they’re back with a second excellent recording, simply called Session 2.
I met Steve Dilling when he was 18 and picking in a mostly young band called Stoney Runn, well before his more than 20-year run with IIIrd Tyme Out. I can easily recall Brian Aldridge, a multi-instrumentalist singing lead for Sideline, as a little kid following around his father, noted North Carolina mandolinist Mike Aldridge with whom Dilling played in the Bass Mountain Boys. Then I realized that’s one reason for the sudden success of Sideline.
Sideline captures so much of what was great about bluegrass in the 1980s and early 1990s. In large measure, Sideline serves up what was contemporary bluegrass thirty years ago. It sounds traditional in 2015. If you heard the music without any context, you would think they were an exceptional post Boone Creek band. Sideline’s driving bluegrass with killer harmonies and propulsive rhythm, well-chosen blend of new and old material, and especially the focus on being an equal ensemble takes the listener right back in time to when these guys were jamming in the campground. A time when Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Hot Rize, and the Johnson Mountain Boys led a new vanguard of bands. Sideline does an equally strong job with traditional songs: “Going Across The Sea” and new ones such as Cia Cherryholmes’ “I Won’t Go Away.” The lead cut, Jake Landers’ well-known “Country Girl,” has enjoyed a good deal of airplay already.
These musicians all speak the same language. Steve, Brian, and Jason all come from the same area, went to the same festivals, picked in the same jam sessions, and heard the same bands. Moore moved into the major leagues when he joined the James King Band in 1993, then followed that with a long tenure with Mountain Heart. California-born guitarist Skip Cherryholmes spent 13 years with his family band before choosing to become a North Carolinian. Aaron Ramsey on mandolin and Ron Stewart on fiddle make guest appearances. Aldridge’s younger brother Daniel has since joined the band on fiddle.
The final reason is the simplest. This quartet enjoys playing together and projects just that on stage and in recordings. Session 2 offers the very best kind of home cooking—tasty, filling, and familiar. (Mountain Fever Records, 1177 Alum Ridge Rd. NW, Willis, VA 24380, www.mountainfever.com.)AM