“Session 2” by Sideline

Session 2
Mountain Fever Records
4½ stars (out of 5)

By Larry Stephens

Sideline brings together five seasoned veterans who make some very good bluegrass together. As the name indicates, this is a “plus” project for them (although recent posts on Facebook make it sound more like a full-time gig) as they are all involved in other pursuits.

Steve Dilling, the longtime (21 years!) banjo player for IIIrd Tyme Out, decided to leave that band at the end of 2013 to get off the road. Looking at his Facebook page, he seems to be enjoying himself these days. His banjo playing certainly doesn’t suffer from a more stationary lifestyle. His son–in–law, Skip Cherryholmes, plays guitar with the group and does an excellent job. Dilling’s banjo kicks off “Mountain Girl,” a rousing song of love with hot breaks by all the band members.

A familiar number is “Rose In Paradise,” a hit for Waylon Jennings back in the 80’s. Many fans will recognize “Handsome Molly,” a traditional folk–bluegrass number. Aaron Ramsey (Mountain Heart) plays mandolin on this and most of the other tracks even though Brian Aldridge is the band’s mandolin player. Aldridge plays (and sings lead) only twice—on the “Goin’ Across the Sea” (Bill Monroe, Flatt & Scruggs, the Goins Brothers) track and “I Won’t Go Away,” a very traditional–sounding number recently composed by Cia Cherryholmes. Session 2 also features some of guest Ron Stewart’s award-winning fiddle work.

Rounding out the band is Jason Moore playing bass. He spent several years with Mountain Heart and is a fine bassman. You’ll hear him on “I’d Rather Die Young,” a hard–driving number (not to be confused with the Johnny Cash/George Jones song with the same title) that features some of the excellent harmony from this group. Another number featuring excellent harmony is an old Country Gentlemen song, “Lord Don’t Leave Me Here” done a cappella. Another look back is Hershel Sizemore’s “Kentucky Country Home.”

Sideline’s formula is traditional bluegrass music simply and powerfully played by fine musicians who have all paid their dues and then some—and that formula is a winning one.