by Jeff Silverstein
A tradition is a ritual or belief that is passed down within a society. It is maintained in the present, with origins in the past. Bluegrass music is perhaps one of the most vibrant of American traditions, maintaining core features whose origin is about 75 years old. We have all seen traditions wane and become stale or worse, nostalgic, in which case it is not truly maintained in the present,
but rather maintained in the past, in the glory days. Founded in 2008, Brand New Strings was chosen as a 2010 International Bluegrass Music Association Official Showcase Artist. They now bring us a new CD entitled No Strings Attached (Rural Rhythm Records – RHY 1057) which absolutely lights up this tradition. Even the name of the band evokes the energy of a vital tradition. Certainly their new album is both as traditional and fresh as the cool breeze at a bluegrass festival after a lightening storm.
“Rainy Nights And Memories”
Randall Massengill (lead vocals, guitar) and Mike Ramsey (harmony vocals, mandolin) provide a powerful and meticulous vocal power. Tim Tipton (bass); Stuart Wyrick (harmony vocals, banjo); and Matt Leadbetter (resophonic guitar) form the core of this band that produced this hard driving, highly traditional but nonetheless fresh and exciting music. Matt is the son of Phil Leadbetter, a resophonic guitarist who played with The New South, amongst others.
Six of the thirteen tracks on this new album are written by either Mike Ramsey or Randall Massengill. The first cut, “Merry Go Round” is a rollicking and quintessentially upbeat bluegrass kvetch about the circular nature of love. It has been as high as 15 on the Bluegrass Unlimited top 30 song chart. The vocal resonance catches the attention on “Rainy Nights and Memories”—“Rainy nights and memories go together, and with every drop of rain I feel the pain,” a heart tugging ballad that is worth the price of the CD.
This is a band steeped in gospel music. Among the fine contributions on this album, “When My Feet Touch The Streets of Gold” appears to be original to the band and is a beautiful ballad.
Brand New Strings combine highly coordinated instrumental musings with an exceptionally strong vocal capacity that is both commanding and touching at the same time. This CD could easily spend a few months in your current rotation. With a little longevity, these gentlemen could turn into the new standard bearers of their generation.
• Merry Go Round (Allen Johnson)
• Rainy Nights And Memories (Holyfield / Rushing)
• Law Of The Land (Randy Massengill)
• Caught Up (Mike Ramsey)
• Wheels (Gram Parsons)
• Living Water (Chris West)
• The Blues Club (Randy Massengill)
• High On A Hilltop (Tommy Collins)
• When My Feet Touch The Streets Of Gold (Mona Ramsey)
• I Feel The Same Way Too (Franklin D. Brewster)
• Who Am I (Randy Massengill)
• Prayer From Home (Randy Massengill)
• The First Date (Mike Ramsey)
Rural Rhythm Records