CD Review: Brand New Strings – Stay Tuned

by Rich O’Hanley

Much to Lynn Lipton’s chagrin, I’m probably a year or two late with this review of Stay Tuned, a CD by Brand New Strings. The problem was one of damning with faint praise, which I am loathe to do. I’ve been listening to this album off and on, waiting for something to hit me. Sure, I thought, it has great arrangements, great playing and singing, and good production, but nothing earthshaking, or even new.

Then something hit me. I was driving the other night, listening to Bluegrass Junction on the radio, when I heard a familiar song. Looking at the display, I saw it was the “Other Side of Lonesome,” the lead song on this album. Well, listening to this drove me well over the speed limit. Turns out, at least on “Other Side of Lonesome,” which was written by Randall Massengill, that the arrangement, playing, singing, and production are all great. Now, I can’t stop listening to the song. The last time this happened, the song was the Steeldrivers’ “Angel of the Night” from their Reckless album. I really like Massengill’s guitar on this. He even sneaks in some dobro. After his break, Mike Ramsey’s mandolin, followed by Stuart Wyrick’s banjo, and Preston Schmidt’s fiddle really tear it up.

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“Other Side Of Lonesome”

After kicking off with “Other Side of Lonesome,” the next track on Stay Tuned is an old chestnut, “I Washed My Hands in Muddy Water.” This was recorded by Elvis Presley and released on the album Elvis Country (I’m 10,000 Years Old) in 1971. It is a cover of the 1965 original by Stonewall Jackson. It was also a hit by Johnny Rivers in 1966, reaching #19 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Elvis never did the song like this.

Next up is the obligatory gospel tune, “Behold the Lamb,” written and sung by Mike Ramsey. “Mustang Minnie,” written by Marshal Walwick, who must be a friend of the band, is the weakest song. “The Guitar,” also written and sung by Massengill, is a song about making it in Nashville, which includes some sweet pedal steel by Paul Niehaus.

The album closes with love songs “That’s You,” written by Wyrick, and “Silver Dollar Man,” written by Ramsey. “That’s You” features some nice traditional harmonies. Surprising, there’s no instrumental, although they sound capable of some kick-ass stuff.

With services like Spotify and Pandora, it’s easy to listen to new stuff. So, check out “Other Side of Lonesome.” If you like it, buy the album. Artists make very little from Spotify and similar services.

About the Band
Brand New Strings is Randall Massengill singing lead and harmony vocals, playing lead guitar, and writing songs; Mike Ramsey singing lead and harmony vocals, playing mandolin, and writing; songs; banjo picker Stuart Wyrick; Preston Schmidt playing fiddle; and Tony Mowell on bass.

Stay Tuned is their second Rural Rhythm Records release, produced and mixed by band member Preston Schmidt. No Strings Attached, their first album, which was released in 2010, got the band selected as 2010 IBMA Showcase Artist.

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