The Famous Lefty Flynn’s
4.5 stars (out of 5)
Having blasted onto the bluegrass music scene in 2005—winning the International Bluegrass Music Association’s emerging artist award that year and following up with two straight entertainer of the year nods—The Grascals have filled a niche that was once occupied by The Osborne Brothers as a country-leaning bluegrass band with superb material, impeccable lead and harmony vocals and a desire to always have fun on stage and in the studio.
The Grascals (2005), Long List of Heartaches (2006) and Keep On Walkin’ (2008) exuded these qualities, as does their fourth Rounder Records release, The Famous Lefty Flynn’s.
That the band is still in fine running order after the additions of the award-winning Kristin Scott Benson on banjo and youngster Jeremy Abshire on fiddle is plainly evident on the opening cut, an animated cover of The Monkees’ 1966 number-one hit “Last Train to Clarksville.”
Lest one think that the group has gone pop, the second track is a blazing version of the Pete Goble/Osborne Brothers track “Son of a Sawmill Man,” complete with Terry Eldredge on lead vocals, a twangy steel guitar and monster breaks from Abshire and mandolinist Danny Roberts.
Eldredge, the group’s finest singer—which is saying something with guitarist Jamie Johnson and bassist Terry Smith in the mix—is in his element with “Everytime,” a modern day ramblin’ song from Harley Allen and Toby Keith caddy Scotty Emerick, the brooding, bluesy “Out Comes the Sun,” the cinematic title track (Johnny Depp should play the lead) and Steve Earle’s “My Old Friend the Blues,” one of the best songs ever written about depression.
Johnson leads on the familiar “Up This Hill and Down” and the soaring original “My Baby’s Waiting on the Other Side.” He also turns in stellar heartfelt performances on the disc’s two gospel tracks “Satan and Grandma” and “Give Me Jesus.”
“Blue Rock Slide” is a bouncy, four-minute original instrumental workout for the group’s pickers to prove it’s not just all about the vocals on this 12-track, 35-minute effort.
But the album’s capper is “I’m Blue, I’m Lonesome,” with Hank Williams Jr. guesting on the track that his father co-wrote with Bill Monroe. With Eldredge’s moonshine tenor scraping against Williams’ strong lead, it could be the best ever cover version of this bluesy bluegrass classic.
by Aaron Keith Harris