By Larry Stephens
If you like excellent traditional bluegrass you’re going to love the new Spinney Brothers CD.
There are a number of songs that talk about the travails of a traveling music man and the Spinneys take another stab at it with a Pete Goble and Leroy Drumm number, “Thank God For the Highways.” Goble and Drumm have written a number of memorable songs, including “Big Spike Hammer” and “Tennessee 1949.” It’s an existence just one breakdown away from misery and you feel the weariness this life brings. Drumm and Goble were tapped for another number, “How Much I’m Missing You.” This is a pretty, sad-and-lonely number in waltz time. This number shows off the Spinneys’ excellent harmony singing. They’re good on their instruments, too, with Allan on guitar and Rick playing banjo. They travel with a small band, including Terry Poirer playing bass and Gary Dalrymple mandolin. They’re joined here by Ron Stewart playing fiddle (who also owns the engineer and mastering credits as well as mixing, along with the brothers) and Rob Ickes on Dobro. Everything about this CD is topnotch.
“Choices,” made famous by George Jones, has been around for a long time and the Spinneys do a good job on it, with Allan singing lead and Rick joining him on the chorus. This is a song that’s a story of mistakes and regret and you have to put that emotion in it. A change of pace is Rick Spinney’s “Proud To Be Your Dad.” Life can be tough in combined families and this song underlines that there’s more to fatherhood than bloodlines. Allan Spinney contributes (with Paula Breedlove) “She Doesn’t Grieve Anymore,” a touching number about the love shared by two people. After sixty years the man passes on and the woman grieves but, after twenty years alone, her grief is finally gone because her mind has forgotten most everything but what she sees in front of her. What a good, touching story this makes.
Perhaps the most unusual song is a story that more than one preacher has probably dreamed about at least once. “The Mirror” tells how an obituary is placed that the local church’s entire congregation had died and the funeral is Sunday. Attendance Sunday is better even than Easter and when the service is read and they file past the open casket, they find it empty except for the mirror. Ouch. “My Music Comes From Bill” (from veteran songwriter Bill Castle) pays tribute to Bill Monroe.
Heartaches and heartbreak are on tap with “Regena,” an excellent, uptempo found-her-and-lost-her number. “Sweet Hazel Moore” tells the story again, with Sweet Hazel leaving town with a bible and suitcase to break the singer’s heart. “Gonna Catch a Train (Leavin’ You Behind)” tells the blazing fast story of the man leaving town and leaving the woman behind.
Rounding out the CD is a song from Edgar Loudermilk, “Freightyard Down the Street,” a great young love story, and a gospel number, “I Wanna Walk With Jesus.”
I can think of a long list of traditional artists from the early days of bluegrass, and a long list today who keeps that music alive. The Spinney Brothers break their own trail in the bluegrass landscape but it’s smack in the middle of the traditional side of the mountain. Excellent work.