Not long ago, I was having a conversation with IBMA Hall of Famer Del McCoury, and his lament about modern bluegrass bands was simple. “The knack for entertaining people is lacking in a lot of bands and musicians now,” he said. And, he’s right. There’s clamor in some circles for traditional bluegrass and the music played the way the first generation acts played it. Yet modern traditional bluegrass bands can also be pretty boring acts onstage and in the studio. Sideline, however, is different. They perform and play with drive, and say what you will about stage banter, there are times when just six words said to the audience can make all the difference.
In the studio, Sideline, which began as a part-time project, but has become a real force in the genre, has been on a roll as far as producing lively and diverse albums. Their latest recording is Breaks To The Edge and features original members Steve Dilling, Skip Cherryholmes, and Jason Moore. The album also showcases guitarist and singer Bailey Coe, Troy Boone on mandolin and vocals, and Daniel Greeson on the fiddle.
The recording starts out with the uptempo “Digging My Own Grave,” with space for solo breaks by everyone. “Return To Windy Mountain” is a good “avoid the mines and go see the world” song that leads to a return back to the beautiful state of West Virginia. The songs here are well-chosen and varied in tempos and styles. Other highlights include the gospel of “I’ll Live Again,” “Southern Wind,” and the neighbors-gathered-round fun of “Square Dance Town.” (Mountain Home Music Company, P.O. Box 829, Arden, NC 28704, www.mountainhomemusiccompany.com.)DH