First, for those unfamiliar with the Dyer Switch Band; now out of the Albany area they’ve been playing together since 1992, have been inducted into the New York State Country Music Hall of Fame, and were nominated as the Bluegrass Band of The Year for five consecutive years by the Northeast Country Music Association… yes, I had to check their website, but that does give you an idea of just how strong a background they have in bluegrass.
Their new CD is Family Business:
The first three songs of Dyer Switch’s “Family Business” CD had me comfortably filing them under traditional bluegrass, though with a bit more humor than most bands display (“Family Business” plays along between the CD title, the lyrics of the same titled first song, and the graphics on the CD sleeve… you’ll have to see for yourself…).
Then the fourth tune “I Just Can’t Stay” throws out the first curve with a decidedly Celtic air added by Peter Davis guesting on the penny whistle. When Bill Monroe’s classic Big Mon follows you think you’re safely back to traditional bluegrass. Big Mon gives the band a chance to cut loose and show off their instrumental licks. With 17 years of playing behind them you can count on some pretty hot licks! The band is: Tom Benson (mandolin, vocals, guitar), JoAnn Sifo (guitar and vocals), Bob Altschuler (banjo and Dobro), Nick Viscio (fiddle and vocals) and Randy Jennings (bass and vocals). Needless to say with all those years behind them they all work well together, and their songs are so well crafted it would be easy to underestimate the amount of work they must have put into them.
“I Just Can’t Stay”
The rest of this CD showcases just how wide a swathe you can cut with bluegrass and still be “traditional”, the band veers from tunes closer to country, to some sneaky covers of, yes, rock… but if you’re not up on the original tune you’ll have a hard time figuring out it’s a cover!
The swathe that Dyer Switch is cutting has a lot of twists and turns in it, but keeps coming back to and revolving around good solid bluegrass. This CD turns out to be a lot of fun just in anticipating where they’re going to go with each song. And after all, isn’t bluegrass music supposed to be about fun???