by Roy Streever
As the title implies, Strange New World introduces almost a totally new band, with guitarist and lead vocalist Chris West the lone remaining member since Blue Moon Rising’s last release. They are also on a new label: Rural Rhythm Records. Having been a fan of Blue Moon Rising personally for several years, I didn’t quite know what to expect, given the turnover in band personnel, but I can’t say that I’m disappointed with the results.
New band members include Brandon Bostic on guitar, mandolin and lead & harmony vocals, Tony Mowell on bass and lead & harmony vocals, and Owen Platt on banjo. Once again Tim Crouch guests on fiddle and Shadd Cobb adds open back banjo. In addition to producing and engineering this project, Randy Kohrs also contributes on a number of tracks on resonator guitar.
Bluegrass purists may cringe at the mention of drums, which are present on most cuts, but the percussion provided by Kenny Malone and Dave Racine is fairly low-key and, if you weren’t forewarned, you might not even notice it.
Keith Garrett’s strong lead voice is certainly missed, as he left the group to become the guitarist and lead vocalist in the Boxcars, but Chris West lends continuity to Blue Moon Rising’s transition with his lead vocals, and he also penned seven of the thirteen tracks.
From my perspective, none of the songs really jump out and make you hit the repeat button, but they’re all solid and they grow on you (a good reason to not write a CD review too hastily). In fact, the opening track, “Time To Be Movin’ On,” has been on Bluegrass Unlimited’s national bluegrass survey for seven months as of August, and is currently resting comfortably in the number four spot. It is a West original, as is my personal favorite on the CD, “Hard Luck Joe.” The lead vocals are spread around, although I cannot identify the new band members by voice yet and they are not identified on the liner notes.
“Hard Luck Joe”
Few of the cuts feature a traditional bluegrass kickoff on banjo or fiddle and there are no instrumental tracks. Guitar intros seem to be the order of the day and are not flashy. Rather, they are diverse, brief, for the most part, and tasteful.
Overall, this CD contains a nice mix of tunes, most of which are medium-paced and diverse in style. All are very well played, the lead and harmony vocals are strong and the recording quality is outstanding. If you are looking for a hard-driving traditional recording of bluegrass covers, you may not be thrilled with this project. If you can live with the limited percussion and you favor top notch musicians performing primarily original material, you’ll enjoy this CD.
Rural Rhythm Records