“It’s About Tyme” by Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out

Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out
It’s About Tyme
Break A String Records
5 stars (out of 5)

By Aaron Keith Harris

No one loves a good bluegrass killin’ song more than I do, and “Brown County Red” is one of my new favorites. It doesn’t hurt that it’s set in the county that I’ve driven through countless times to cross into Kentucky at Maysville, where my father was born, but it’s really Russell Moore’s masterful singing style that makes this Kyle Burnett song a great recording.

Moore’s vocal timbre and diction aren’t particularly bluegrass, country, or even Southern sounding. In fact, it’s sweet and soulful enough to handle Sam Cooke’s “You Send Me,” here leading  a lush a cappella quartet. Indeed, If they hadn’t already called Mac Wiseman “The Voice with a Heart,” Moore could easily claim that title.

Wiseman’s nickname came from the smooth sheen he put on simple, rustic “heart songs,” but Moore’s delivery can be exuberant (“I’m Leaving You and Fort Worth Too), brokenhearted (“Makes Me Wonder If I Ever Said Goodbye”), and wry (Keith Whitley’s “I Think I Want My Rib Back”).

Moore sings songs of nostalgia for love, home and life in the country with a heartfelt sincerity and not a trace of mawkishness; songs like “Cottontown” (Mark Brinkman and Becky Buller), “Poison Cove” (Milan Miller), “Enough for You” (Josh Miller) and the radio hit “Had It Not Been for the Train” (Eli Johnston and Kevin McKinnon), as sung by Moore, are as good as modern bluegrass gets.

Wayne Benson (mandolin), Justen Haynes (fiddle), Keith McKinnon (banjo and guitar), and Blake Johnson (upright bass) can travel with ease down any road Moore chooses to go, and they’re at their best—vocally and instrumentally—on a couple of tunes with a slightly darker tinge: “The Lowlands” (Gary Scruggs) and a soaring take on “River Bottom” (Billy Edd Wheeler), which rivals the one cut by the Country Gentlemen in 1981, with Doyle Lawson—Moore’s old boss in Quicksilver—teaming with Charlie Waller, another classic bluegrass singer with whom Russell Moore deserves to be ranked.