By Larry Stephens
Many people in front of a microphone just sing. Marty Raybon emotes. There’s something about his voice that tugs your emotions the way he wants them to go, happy or sad. He started in bluegrass then made it big in country leading the band Shenandoah before coming back to bluegrass. I was suspect of his initial return—as many in the bluegrass community were of the wave of country stars who all of a sudden discovered their inner Jimmy Martin—especially since many of the songs on that CD were remakes of Shenandoah hits, but he’s stayed committed to bluegrass, not just looking for a place to peddle some CDs because country radio has frozen him out.
His personal appearances are just as good as his CDs. He avoids useless chatter and sings his heart out for the crowd. I recently saw him perform several of the songs off this CD. One goes back a few decades for a giant hit for Webb Pierce; “Slowly (I’m Falling)” is a classic love song and Raybon speeds up his version (in comparison to Pierce’s), giving it a happy feel more than heartfelt emotion. For emotion plus gospel you need to hear “Look For Me (For I Will Be There Too)” composed by Rusty Goodman.
After you’ve been there ten thousand years, a million, maybe two
Look for me for I will be there, too
If you tie belief in heaven with love here today, those words will touch your heart.
Raybon also shows us he can write. Numbers that he co-wrote include “That Janie Baker,” a fast-moving number with drive—the bluegrass combination everyone strives for—and “Mountain Love,” another lively song that kicks off with a banjo-fiddle melody. “A Little More Sawdust On The Floor” is a call for us to take some time out of our busy lives to enjoy life while we can, while he goes down the road of having messed up his life and now about to pay the cost in “The Big Burnsville Jail.”
He reaches out to country music again for a 1977 number one song from Charley Pride, “She’s Just An Old Love Turned Memory.” Another song from the past is “The Late Night Cry of the Whippoorwill,” released in the ’80s by the Virginia Squires, a group that included Sammy Shelor and Mark Newton. Songs of loneliness and lost love are perfect for Raybon’s expressive voice. Still another country broken heart song is “Hurt Me All The Time,” a 1998 song from Joe Diffie.
This is another solid performance from Raybon, a mixture of country-turned-bluegrass, songs that are fun and songs that touch the heart. As Raybon begins his fortieth year as an entertainer, he shows he is getting stronger as time goes by.