By Larry Stephens
Let me share a secret with you: Jeff Scroggins & Colorado. Scroggins was a founding member of the Andy Owens Project and one of his first teachers was Alan Munde. You can hear his excellent banjo work on the title song along with his son, Tristan, picking the strings off the mandolin. As much instrumental as a song, Mark Schatz takes a short break on bass while Andy Leftwich does his usual excellent job on fiddle. That leaves Greg Blake providing lead vocals and top–notch guitar picking. Blake was selected SPBGMA Bluegrass Guitar Performer of the Year five years in a row and has being nominated twice for Traditional Male Vocalist of the Year. He has exceptionally clear vocals and sings with power and drive.
Don Reno, Red Smiley, and Buddy Smith penned the great “Wall Around Your Heart.” This is one of my favorite David Peterson songs and Colorado nails the song on this CD with Peterson and Don Rigsby singing harmony. The leadoff song sounds like progressive bluegrass, especially the first few bars, but it’s a Willie Nelson song, “I’m A Memory.” The band does it in the same style as Nelson: instruments at full tilt with the singer at half that speed. That’s harder to do than you might think. They make a segue into traditional bluegrass with an unusual story song, “Sometimes Dig For Taters.”
Well poor Ellen Johnson, she was looking for a man
One with all his teeth, lots of land
Just a couple details didn’t come out like she planned
Sometimes ham, sometimes Spam, sometimes dig for taters
The tune is a good one and just finding out where those lyrics go is worth the price of the CD. Getting back to country influences, Conway Twitty took “She’s Got a Single Thing In Mind” to #2 on the charts back in 1989. Where Twitty’s version is one of his signature ballads, Colorado takes it more upbeat with some rapid–fire banjo in the background but Blake carries it off without losing any of the sentimental touch. The CD comes with two good instrumentals including a Jeff Scroggins number, “Dismal Nitch.” There’s some interesting chord progressions and excellent work by father, son and Blake. It’s Tristan Scroggins’ turn with “Lemonade in the Shade” and it’s another good one, well played.
They reach way back to pick up a bluegrass standard, “Sweetheart Please Come Home.” It’s been recorded by a bevy of artists, including Old & In The Way with Jerry Garcia on banjo, Add Colorado’s version to the list of great recordings of this fine number. “Galveston” will be forever linked to Glen Campbell but Greg Blake’s version is a good one with fine banjo work behind it. Another number borrowed from country is Diamond Rio’s “Night Is Falling In My Heart.” It sounds more country than bluegrass, if you want to be picky, but again the backing instrumentalists do an excellent job and have I mentioned how much I like Blake’s vocals?
This CD goes into my “best” pile. There’s not a throwaway track on it — really good music.