“Drifter” by Volume Five

Volume Five
Mountain Fever Records
4½ stars (out of 5)

By Larry Stephens

Volume Five continues to play good buegrass. They reach back for a bluegrass gem, “Tall Pines,” and feature Patton Wages kicking it off on the banjo. Wages, who spent four years with Marty Raybon, plays his banjo rolls with drive; bluegrass fans will enjoy his constant presence on all the tracks. Wages and Colby Laney, now back with the band, play guitar and sing harmony. You’ll hear a good guitar kickoff on the title song (“I Am a Drifter”), a song about the wandering life, a different take on the “Gentle On My Mind” theme.

“95 Years” is an upbeat number about being in prison. It’s a familiar theme: a cheating wife, a gun, “95 years with a ball and chain …” The band’s vocals are excellent on this and all the tracks. They throw in a change of pace with a bluesy “When I Go Away.” This cut features an interesting vocal arrangement with the harmony singers providing phrases separate from Glen Harrell’s lead. You’ll hear Harrell providing good fiddling along with singing all the lead tracks. Another good number, about bittersweet memories of love lost, is “Molly Dear.” This is a story of an old man who still remembers a lost love, how Molly took his heart so many years ago. It’s been sixty years and he’s never loved another.

For a different perspective, try “Scarecrow.” This is life from the eys of a scarecrow hanging in the field. There’s a gentle interplay of the instruments as you hear a story of duty, just doing my job. I don’t know if it was the composer’s intent, but a lot of us can relate to just getting it done, being steady without flash nor much attention. It’s a good number and features Chris Williamson on bass. Laney contribted two tracks, “Alaskan Gold,” featuring a nice mandolin break from Harry Clark, and an instrumental, “Lucky Seven,” that lets the musicians show off their chops. Guest Aaron Ramsey pays bass on all the tracks except “Scarecrow.” Jeff Partin composed “Lonely Wind,” a beautiful song aboud loneliness. Partin is an excellent Dobroist and you hear him scattered throughout the cuts. He left the group (going to Mountain Heart) after their previous release “Voices” came out but he’s back as a guest.

Volume Five is all about bluegrass. They put together good lyrics and good musicianship and cap it with excellent harmony.

Volume 5 - Drifter