“Runaway Train” by Flatt Lonesome

Flatt Lonesome
Runaway Train
Mountain Home Records
5 stars (out of 5)

By Larry Stephens

Why are they so good? They’ve matured, growing from a bunch of kids in a family band to young adults and veteran performers, selected as the IBMA 2014 emerging artist of the year. They pick good material and are talented musicians and singers. They are as good on stage as they are on a recording, fairly common in bluegrass music (not always the case in other genres, with electronic gadgetry a hidden band member), and also as showmen, which isn’t common enough in bluegrass.

There are times I’ll hear a song that stops me in my tracks. “You’re the One” is one of those songs. I liked it back in ’91 when Dwight Yoakam released it but sisters Charli Robertson (singing lead) and Kelsi Robertson Harrigill plus brother Buddy Robertson add some soul to it that make it a heartstopper.

They have a nice mix of older songs and self–composed numbers. “Mixed Up Mess of a Heart” (Tommy Collins/Merle Haggard) goes back to Haggard’s start in country music. They capture Haggard’s style but give it a softer edge with the sisters’ singing. Don and David Parmley of the Bluegrass Cardinals composed “Don’t Come Running,” a song of broken love kicked off by banjo player Paul Harrigill. The Cardinals left us with a lot of good material and this is certainly no exception. Every song on this CD is a fine example of excellent harmony singing. They also give an excellent arrangement of Gram Parsons’ “Still Feeling Blue.” I like their version much better than the 1973 original.

They have a deft touch with the pen, co–writing with people like Danny Roberts (the Grascals) to give us “You’ll Pay,” an upbeat lost–love song and Brayden McMahan (Mountain Faith) for a fast moving instrumental, “Road To Nottingham.” Michael Stockton plays a hot Dobro on this number and Dominic Illingworth anchors it all with his solid bass line. Dolton Robertson, father of the three Robertsons, provided “New Lease On Life,” a hard driving number about a major life change.

Flatt Lonesome is a great bluegrass band and their new CD is excellent listening from start to finish.

Flatt Lonesome