“Cryin’ Heart Blues” by Audie Blaylock and Redline

Audie Blaylock and Redline
Cryin’ Heart Blues
Rural Rhythm Records
4 stars (out of 5)

In his second album as a bandleader since leaving Rhonda Vincent’s band, Audie Blaylock maintains the high standard he set on last year’s self-titled effort.

Comprised of Evan Ward (banjo), Patrick McAvinue (fiddle, mandolin) and Matt Wallace (bass), Redline is precise without ever crossing over into slickness on hard-driving numbers like Carter Stanley’s “Let’s Part the Best of Friends,” “Troubles Round My Door,” “You Can Keep Your Nine Pound Hammer” and “Cryin’ Heart Blues,” which is done here in 4/4 time, not the waltz I’ve usually heard it as. Ward deserves being singled out for his backup playing on vocal numbers that approaches the Sonny Osborne/Rob McCoury territory.

Blaylock’s is not your classic bluegrass high lead voice, but that’s what makes him interesting. His restrained power, crisp phrasing and ability to hit the high notes when warranted (as on Bill Monroe’s “Stay Away from Me”) are what makes him unusually good. The effect, when applied to familiar songs like the ones listed so far, is that of a skilled jazz musician bringing a fresh take to the standards. His version of the Jimmy Martin classic “Drink Up and Go Home” might be the best example of this.

“Matches,” written by Keith Stegall and Charles F. Craig, and “Can’t Keep on Runnin’,” written by Harley Allen, are two unusually good, apparently new songs that Blaylock nails and that makes one hunger for even more non-traditional material on his next effort. This one, with 13 tracks clocking in at 38 minutes, will do better than fine in the meantime.

by Aaron Keith Harris

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