By Larry Stephens
I’ve become a fan of the Spinney Brothers, on CD and on stage. Their music is rooted in tradition and they seem to always have a good selection of songs from various composers.
“Give A Letter To Mama” was composed by and comes from the 1978 LP “A Letter To Mama” by Ed Hamilton. The LP features bluegrass boy Roger Smith on fiddle. This is an uptempo, broken–heart song that any traditionalist will love. “Digging In the Ground” by the late Randall Hylton is a story about how mining changes the landscape and the people – not for the better – around a town. Gary Dalrymple has a nice break on mandolin. It could describe many towns in the coal belt.
Another well–known bluegrass composer is Bill Castle and his “Going Home to Tennessee” will strike a chord in many people. So many men moved north from the south to towns like Detroit and Chicago to find jobs, including the Monroe Brothers. After thirty years he’s going back home to Tennessee. Ron Stewart does his usual excellent work on the fiddle and also plays banjo on “Home,” more memories of life long ago when part of childhood was making a lifetime of memories.
Allan Spinney plays guitar and sings lead on most tracks, switching to tenor and adding baritone on choruses. Rick Spinney plays with a steady hand on the banjo and sings lead or harmony. One of his lead numbers is the title number, one he co–wrote, telling the story of a musician leaving his family for the road, chasing the dream of his music. Mark Brinkman’s “Letter To Myself” is an interesting proposition that I wish could be done: writing a letter to myself and mailing it back in time to a younger me. If I would just be smart enough to take my own advice …
They reach back again to do Earl Taylor’s “The Children Are Crying.” Taylor (1929 – 1984) and the Stoney Mountain Boys were the first bluegrass band to play Carnegie Hall and he also played with Jimmy Martin and a young Charlie Waller. This is another favorite theme in bluegrass: the unfaithful [woman] has left and the children are crying and lonely. Bluegrassers like the pain of heartache.
This CD is packed with twelve tracks of well–played and well–sung bluegrass music. There’s no questioning which shelf it goes on, no catering to those that don’t like the old stuff. If you like your music true to the spirit of the bluegrass pioneers, the Spinneys should be on your dance card.