4½ stars (out of 5)
By Larry Stephens
Good music doesn’t always go quickly from the finished project master CD to the marketplace. This CD was released in May 2015 but was finished years before. Hammertowne came together in 2011. The sparse liner notes in Tackett’s CD tell us that Hammertowne’s beginning was a result of this CD project, so that puts the time to market at over four years. “Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.” Tackett must have the patience of a river.
Tackett, formerly with Dave Evans, sings lead vocals and plays rhythm guitar. He’s joined by now–bandmates from Hammertowne including Dave Carroll (lead guitar, baritone vocals), Carroll’s son, Chaston Carroll (mandolin), and Brent Pack (banjo). Doug Burchett plays bass and adds tenor vocals while the ever–busy Ron Stewart plays fiddle. Tackett and Carroll Sr. composed several of the songs. (Note to CD cover designers: don’t put songwriter credits in 3-point font.)
Pack plays good, hard–driving banjo and Stewart is excellent, as always. Tackett’s “Hand Me A Glass” is a fast moving, hard-luck song with the banjo and fiddle carrying most of the backup weight, but with a nice mandolin break. Pack’s work in crisp and percussive while Burchett’s bass is prominent in the mix. Tackett co–wrote “One Month Behind” with Carroll and Burchett. This is a great country–tinged song I have to learn. “She told me would call on Friday, she’s only one month behind.” Stewart adds some lonesome fiddle with just the amount of pathos.
Stewart kicks off “Old Time Traveling Preacher” with an eerie melody. This is a song about a preacher with a Bible in one hand and a bottle in the other, and a woman in both: “His is the only soul that he didn’t save” and “He died in the arms of another’s wife at the hand of a jealous man.” Bluegrass and country like their drinking and cheating songs. In that vein, he includes Harlan Howard’s hit song, “Miller’s Cave” at a fast clip compared to the Bobby Bare version. He also reaches back for a Stanley Brothers hit, “Our Last Goodbye Today.”
With songs like Carroll’s tragic “The Silver Bridge Lament,” excellent musicians and good harmony, Tackett has put together a very good CD that stays close to traditional bluegrass. Celebrate that it is seeing the light of day and enjoy yourself when it’s in the CD player.