Mr. Sun lights up the musical horizon with infectious rhythms and the delightful interplay of instruments threads its way through eleven tunes on their first CD release The People Need Light courtesy of the nice folks at Compass Records. ​

The group, comprised of an "intergenerational tribe" per the album cover, includes fiddler Darol Anger, guitarist Grant Gordy, mandolinist Joe Walsh and upright double doghouse contra string acoustic bassist Ethan Jodziewicz. Listeners familiar with these musicians from their previous work will find themselves on familiar ground and in friendly surroundings. For those not already acquainted it serves as a perfect introduction.The album notes include descriptions of each tune by the musicians together with a list of the studio microphones and instruments used.

My dairy farmer father rarely took vacations, but when he did he always chose destinations even more old-fashioned than the rock-bound NH farm we lived on. Usually that meant Amish country, but on one of his last and certainly longest trip, he took my mother and their loyal Plymouth on the ferry from Portland, Maine to Nova Scotia, arriving in a rural past more perfect than they could have imagined. The views of quaint coastal villages and the loam rich fields of Prince Edward Island must have activated Jungian memories of 16th century Devon or the lowlands of Scotland, this Canadian paradise they later confirmed with a cache of Kodachrome slides they beamed onto the living room door: tilled green fields, dense forests, stark white buildings and almost no people.

One of the most exciting young bands today is the Foghorn Stringband, a quartet based in the Pacific northwest. They cover a lot of stylistic ground. Although most readily characterized as an "old time string band," they draw the material on their latest recording, Devil In The Seat, from diverse sources. The "title" track (real name: "90 Miles An Hour"), from the classic country repertoire (Hank Snow), analogizes a cheating love affair to an out of control motorcycle driven by Old Scratch himself. The band includes more recognizably "old time" fiddle tunes such as "Stillhouse" and "Old Molly Hare" and old ballads such as "Henry Lee." Also, there are songs familiar to bluegrassers, including "Columbus Stockade Blues," "Pretty Polly," and "John Hardy." The band ties all these different tunes together with its own kinetic joy.

When I was asked to review this book, "High Lonesome Below Sea Level," by Marieke Odenkerken & Loes van Schaijk, I quickly agreed. Having been a bluegrass musician (fiddler for Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys 1965-66), an author ("I Hear A Voice Calling," shameless self-promotion) and photographer, I am acutely aware of the difficulty in producing a book about musicians that balances the writing and photographs to allow each to provide character and insight.

The photos in this book are all portraits of the musicians. But rather than the plastic and contrived album cover shots we so often see coming out of the Nashville music establishment, these images are shot with natural light with a white background and are all in black & white which, to my eye, is perfect for capturing the colorful characters in this book.

Well, it takes some kind of hubris to review an album from a band as successful as the Lonesome River Band, but here goes: this is an album well worth a listen. The band (Sammy Shelor on banjo and vocals, Brandon Rickman on guitar and vocals, Mike Hartgrove on fiddle, Barry Reed on bass, and Randy Jones on mandolin and vocals) is really everything you want in a bluegrass band – sharp, tight picking, lovely vocals and harmony, and great taste in songs.


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