“Familiar With the Ground” by the Boxcars

The Boxcars
Familiar With the Ground
Mountain Home
5 stars (out of 5)

By Larry Stephens

The Boxcars are a model bluegrass band, excellent instrumentalists (Keith Garett — guitar, Ron Stewart — banjo and fiddle, Adam Steffey — mandolin, Harold Nixon — bass and Gary Hultman — dobro) and they are all capable singers.

They’ve been together since 2009 (John Bowman left to pursue his ministry and Hultman was added) and the years of experience as a unit shows on their recordings and personal appearances. Garrett is an excellent songwriter and contributes the title number, a song with a modern bluegrass feel, and “Let the Water Rush Over Me,” a song of pain and memories that rips through your heart. No one sings songs like this better than Garrett and the excellent backing music makes this a number you won’t easily forget.

“When the Bluegrass Is Covered With Snow” is a welcome shot of old-fashioned, straight-ahead bluegrass. This song dates back to a 1964 45 r.p.m. release by Tip Sharp and the Kentucky Mountain Boys and it’s time it was out in front of bluegrass lovers again. Townes Van Zandt‘s “Lungs” has worked as a sharp-edged cover for Lyle Lovett and Steve Earle, and it works here too.

“Hogan’s Goat” is an instrumental by Steffey that gives everyone a chance to show their picking talent and, to no one’s surprise, each one nails their performance. Stewart lends his husky baritone lead to a song he composed, “Branchville Line.” It’s a staple of bluegrass: murder, lover’s deceit and prison although this time he’s wrongly convicted. He writes as well as he plays. “Brown Hill” is another classic, co–composed by Allen Mills and dating back to a 1991 release by The Lost & Found. There is a rich history of good songs and I’m always grateful when bands bring them back even though they have so many new, good songs to pick from like “I’m Dreaming of You” by Chris West.

When I see a new CD from the Boxcars I’m always eager to start listening. They never disappoint their bluegrass fans and this latest release carries on the tradition.

The Boxcars - Familiar With the Ground