Lonesome Way to Go
3.5 stars (out of 5)
In 2008, there is no shortage of quality bluegrass recordings being unleashed. It seems each month sees another hot release from any of a dozen or so familiar labels. Each album and each band have something significant to offer the bluegrass public; unfortunately some of these discs are a little too slick for those favoring a more natural sound.
For those who are eager to uncover unfamiliar sounds, there exist numerous bands with a slightly different approach to bluegrass, one that is entirely modern but perhaps closer in soul to the sounds of a previous time.
With the spirit of independence running deep, Spring Creek is one such band. From Colorado, the four-piece band has recently shortened their name, dropping “Bluegrass Band” while releasing the follow-up to their very well executed debut album Rural & Cosmic Bluegrass.
Lonesome Way to Go finds the band continuing down their path of bright, modern traditional bluegrass, with blues and old-time influences defining an appreciation for the roots of the music.
This relatively youthful band consists of Taylor Sims (guitar), Jessica Smith (upright bass), Chris Elliott (banjo), and Alex Johnstone (mandolin). Each take turns on lead vocals with Sims and Smith most frequently featured.
The diverse textures of the dozen tracks, augmented by the range of voices possessed by the band, make the album a pleasing listening experience that holds up over dozens of plays. Stand-bys such as “Hello Operator,” “Pathway of Teardrops,” and “The One I Love is Gone” are balanced by keen originals and fresh songs demonstrating the band’s talents.
The initial trio of numbers outlines Spring Creek’s approach to bluegrass- solidly within the fold, but bringing in their own colorful touches.
A new song from Oklahoma’s John Diamond kicks the album off with some energy; “Done This to Yourself,” sung with accusatory frankness by Smith, plainly lays it out for a wandering man- this woman has had enough of his faithless ways.
The vocal-trio treatment of “Pathway of Teardrops” reveals a different side of Spring Creek’s bluegrass tradition; Elliott’s lead is augmented by Smith’s and Sims’s harmonies in homage to the Osborne Brothers’ recording from which Spring Creek learned the song.
“Fiddler’s Banjo,” an Elliot original, showcases Gabe Witcher’s fiddling within a rousing and memorable bluegrass instrumental that allows each band member an opportunity to display individual touches.
Elsewhere, additional influences appear. The title track, written by Smith, has a melody that borrows from “Down in the Willow Garden.” The words capture the realistic desperation found in the best traditional numbers while relating the tale of a life tied to circumstance. Another Smith original, “Sleepin’ Like A Baby” has a bit of Lorrie Collins’ rockabilly bite, while Elliott’s “Way of Life” is reminiscent of the ‘looking back’ country shuffle tunes with which The Grascals have been quite successful.
There is no shortage of intriguing songs on this sophomore release. The band understands the complexity of sounds comprising bluegrass, and they make the execution of such appear effortless. Put in the effort, and seek out Spring Creek’s Lonesome Way to Go.
by Donald Teplyske