“Papertown” by Balsam Range

Balsam Range
Mountain Home
5 stars (out of 5)

By Larry Stephens

Knowing how difficult it is to get four or five people together for practice, and (unfortunately) knowing the downside of no practice, I enjoy listening to band introductions and where people live—often many hours apart. As the introductions progress I wonder how they manage to sound that good. If you’re the IIIrd Tyme Out you don’t get together to jam and practice (so they recently said) but they are on the road so much, and are so experienced, that they can work on new stuff while on the road. I once watched the Cherryholmes practicing behind their bus and it appeared as intense as they always did on stage.

And then there’s Balsam Range, “… five men from Haywood County, NC.” That addresses part of the practice question, but these are men with credentials and, however they do it, they make great music.

Buddy Melton is a vocalist and fiddle player and has played bass with David Holt, Doc Watson and Jubal Foster. Buddy was seriously injured in March but fortunately recovered and has returned to playing music and making CDs. Banjoist Marc Pruett has been around the block, playing with Ricky Skaggs, Jimmy Martin, the Whites and James Monroe.

Tim Surrett (vocals, bass and Dobro) spent years singing with the Kingsmen, one of the best known southern gospel groups since 1956 and is in the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame. Caleb Smith adds vocals and plays guitar and Darren Nicholson (Alecia Nugent, Crowe Brothers) plays mandolin and adds vocals.

They do one of the hardest driving (and fastest) versions of Roy Acuff’s “Streamlined Cannonball” that I’ve heard and show off their great harmony singing. Staying with the railroad theme, there’s “Day In the Life of a Railroad Spike,” an interesting spin on railroads.

“Building The Fire” (also known as “You Built the Fire That Burned It All Down”) is a country-tinged, lost love song that also shows offtheir tight harmony singing. Further proof that they can do heartfelt as well as they do hard-driving is “Wide River To Cross.” Beautiful music (including a cello) and soulful lyrics make a good song.

Back on the driving songs side is Jimmie Skinner’s “Born Ramblin’ Man,” a song recorded by the Osborne Brothers over forty years ago. On the country side again is “I Could Do You Some Good,” reminiscent of Moe Bandy and Joe Stampley, and then they throw in some cheatin’-with-a-taken-woman blues, “One Way Out.”

This is one very good album from a very versatile group of excellent musicians. There’s just no way you can’t have fun listening to this.

5 thoughts on ““Papertown” by Balsam Range

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