Blind Man Walking
Skaggs Family Records
3.5 stars (out of 5)
Any bluegrass album that has a quote from Marcel Proust in the liner notes and songs that talk about abusing NyQuil, stealing Maseratis and whether plain ole lonesomeness has a genetic cause gets extra points for originality.
Enough points, in fact, to forgive most of the slick-for slick’s-sake studio touches that occasionally distract from what is essentially a pretty good record.
Bryan Simpson (lead vocals, mandolin) is writer or co-writer on 12 of the album’s 13 cuts, most of which touch on familiar themes in modern bluegrass without relying on phrases so cliched they lack meaning.
“Born Lonesome,” “Insomniac Blues for Matthew,” “Can’t Trust the Weatherman” and “Wish I Could Say I Was Drinking” are the best examples of Simpson’s fresh voice and of the band’s sound, fun and fast, propelled by Matt Menefee’s banjo and Andy Moritz’s bass with Ross Holmes’ fiddle darting and slashing like a honeybee.
There’s also a gospel edge to some of the material, and it works well on the title cut and “You Again,” where the narrator’s conscience fails to stop him boosting that Maserati.
“Sinners Welcome” is less accessible and way over the top, starting with an acapella quartet and ending with a faux Pentecostal hand-clapping rave-up.
“Mountain Man,” a pretty standard weird-guy-in-the-woods song, doesn’t quite fit either.
Guest Sonya Isaacs duets with guitarist Mike Jump on “Homesick Angel,” proving the band can handle softer ballads as well.
But Cadillac Sky is definitely at its best when the top is down and the pedal is all the way to the floor.
by Aaron Keith Harris