Lonesome River Band
Chronology – Volume Two
Rural Rhythm Records
4½ stars (out of 5)
By Larry Stephens
The second volume of the chronology, representing LRB’s second decade in the business, has some strong picks from those years, as well as a new song.
The songs haven’t been just re-mastered, they’ve been re-recorded. That presents a challenge. As a band plays popular numbers over and over through the years they introduce changes, some subtle, some not. They may develop as players, may learn new licks, may just get bored with playing the same songs a hundred times. So when you decide to record the songs again, do you stick with the original version (more or less) or go with the way you’ve been playing it today? Gene Watson recently commented on this when he recorded a hits CD and he tried to stay true to the original versions which meant, he said, learning some songs all over again. LRB has followed that path, not trying to emulate the originals note for note (almost impossible since the band’s lineup has changed) but not straying too far from the originals. The result is a CD that longtime fans will enjoy and newer fans, who may not have the old versions, will want to grab.
The lineup for Volume 2 hasn’t changed from Volume 1, except guest Michael Cleveland is missing. Band leader Sammy Shelor is still picking banjo, while Brandon Rickman provides excellent guitar and vocals. Randy Jones plays mandolin and does a number of lead vocals including the new song, the Rickman-penned “Barely Beat The Daylight In,” a song you’re certain to hear if you catch one of their shows. Mike Hartgrove (IIIrd Tyme Out, Quicksilver) plays fiddle and Barry Reed is on bass and harmony vocals.
From One Step Forward (1996) Rickman sings “Flat Broke and Lonesome.” If you’re so inclined you can group voices into families and I’d put Rickman in the same vocal family as Dan Tyminski. When I hear either one of them sing my mind always pops up the bluegrass flag and I have to stop and listen.
Most bluegrass fans must love murder and love-gone-wrong songs becuase bluegrass music is replete with them. In 1998 (Finding The Way) Ronnie Bowman sang the lead on “Perfume, Powder and Lead” and Brandon Rickman’s 2012 version is dead-on.
I can’t believe what I have done
I killed them both with daddy’s gun
As their bodies lay entangled in our bed
He was the sheriff’s only son
To me she was the only one
I smell the perfume, the powder, and the lead
This song is BLUEGRASS.
From the same album is an about-face, a love song about “Sweet Sally Brown” sung by Randy Jones. From 2000 (Talkin’ To Myself) is an old Ralph Stanley / Curly Ray Cline number, “Dog Gone Shame,” that drives hard and fast. From the same album is another of my favorite LRB songs, “The Crime I Didn’t Do,” the story of a young man in the wrong place at the wrong time who pays the price for a crime he didn’t do.
Rounding out the eight song set is a pair of Harry Sisk, Jr. numbers from 1994′s Old Country Town CD, “The Game (I Can’t Win),” and the game is love and that has probably generated more songs in more genre than anything else. “Tears Are Blinding Me” is yet another classic story – the man who did his woman wrong, drinking and partying until she finds another man, another sad tale in the game of love. (Harry Sisk, Jr.? He’s better known to the bluegrass world as Junior Sisk.)
The only disappointments you may have is there are only eight songs and the CD insert is skimpy – both probably driven by cost factors.
The band made some great choices and everything about the music is first rate. This is a CD you should own.