Wednesday, July 15, 2009

BLUEGRASS: Blue Canyon Boys' new CD a treat

House Full of Sorrow
The Blue Canyon Boys

A lot of bluegrass bands are slick but lose the soul. The Blue Canyon Boys have both quantities in equal measure.

Winning the Telluride Bluegrass Festival Band Competition is no walk in the park. When The Blue Canyon Boys did so in 2008, it was a tribute to their musicianship and hard work. This, their third album, showcases a blend of keening voices, powerful drive and some of the most brisk picking heard recently.

The quartet – Drew Garrett on bass, Gary Dark on mandolin, Jason Hicks on guitar and Jeff Scroggins on banjo – tackles an astute mix of old and new here. Rollicking instrumentals such as “Daybreak in Dixie” and “New Camptown Races” alternate with strong pieces by Hicks like the melancholy “Wondering What Happened to You” and Dark’s simple, beautiful “Lyin’, Cheatin’, Cryin’”.

A most soulful time is had with standards such as “Winsborough Cotton Mill Blues,” the Stanleys’ “Highway of Regret,” and an enchanting live version of “Jesus on the Mainline.” Sometimes, you get the feeling that a group is covering gospel material because it’s expected; the Boys bring it from the heart.

In the “everything’s a potential bluegrass song” category, Cheap Trick’s “I Want You to Want Me” is hilariously apt. The entire group is lightning-fast on the strings, and possessed of precision. The result is a high-energy, pointillist attack that enlivens the listener and encourages repeat listens.

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