Lonesome River Band
Turn on a Dime
Mountain Home Music Company
4 stars (out of 5)
By Chris Shouse
If James Brown was the hardest working man in show business, LRB would have to be the hardest working band in the bluegrass business. I can’t recall the number of times I’ve seen that green tour bus, sitting at festivals I’ve attended across the country. With a tons of awards packed beside his Huber Banjos, bandleader Sammy Shelor continues to crank out albums and miles on the road. Turn on a Dime has this five-piece—with Brandon Rickman (guitar, lead and harmony vocals), Randy Jones (mandolin, lead and harmony vocals), Mike Hartgrove (fiddle), and Barry Reed (bass, harmony vocals) joining Shelor—bringing their signature smooth, steady rolling sound to the work of a wide variety of contemporary bluegrass songwriters.
The first single on the album “Her Love Won’t Turn on a Dime” sets the tone with a love song to that rarity in country music—a woman who is not hard on the wallet of the singer. Others unmistakably in the Shelor/LRB wheelhouse include “Gone and Set Me Free” (featuring sweet twin fiddling from Hartgrove), the bouncy “If the Moon Never Sees the Light of Day,” and the foot-tapping “Teardrop Express”
The brooding “Lila Mae” and “Don’t Shed No Tears,” an eerie tale of dying and going home to rest that relies on a creative lick twined by banjo, mandolin, and fiddle, bring a welcome shade of darkness to the LRB sound; “Holding to the Right Hand” also widens their sound, with Rickman grabbing the heartstrings on this ballad of confession and devotion.
These boys reach back for some traditonal and classic country sounds as well on “Bonnie Brown” (whose sound recalls Monroe’s “Molly and Tenbrooks”), the barroom bounce of “A Whole Lot of Nothin’,” and a stately version of Merle Haggard’s “Shelly’s Winter Love.”
A cleverly arranged “Cumberland Gap” ends the 13-track, 45-minute album with clear evidence of why Sammy Shelor was the 2011 Steve Martin Excellence in Banjo Award winner.
Though LRB’s current approach lacks a bit of the drive I’ve come to expect over 15 years of following them, both old fans and newcomers will enjoy where this fine band is now.