Review: Blue Highway- Original/Traditional

Longevity is a rare thing with any musical group, and Blue Highway is one of the bluegrass bands that manages to keep on keepin’ on. Over twenty years on the road is an impressive track record of commitment in the music world. With this release, Original/Traditional, Blue Highway is reasserting itself as a band that has kept to its vision of solid musicianship, tight vocal harmonies and songwriting– as a way to create their own sound. With respect to this latter element, one quickly notices the very democratic distribution of original songs. All of these guys know what it means to think, sit down, grab a pencil or recording machine, and write. Undoubtedly, their creative energies and their ability to deliver these songs so well is what has sustained them over many productive years. If you are writing songs like “Water From The Stone,” “Wilkes County Clay,” and “Top Of The Ridge,” I think you better keep a goin.’

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“Water From The Stone”

Instrumentally, oh God, do I have to say this? There is no Rob Ickes on this recording. There, done. Rob’s simply one of the best musicians around today, a great person, and a consummate professional in every way. Thankfully, like so much in life and bluegrass music, with Rob’s departure, young Gaven Largent steps in and tears it up. Talented musicians just keep coming out of the woodwork. For the sake of identifying what everyone else is doing, Wayne Taylor is the ever-steady bass man; Shawn Lane, the triple threat on mandolin, fiddle and guitar; Tim Stafford, the always powerful and imaginative guitarist; and Jason Burleson driving the five-string banjo. Jason also contributes a very fine instrumental, Alexander’s Run.

Blue Highway brings another distinction that few bands can match: multiple and capable lead vocalists. As has always been the case, Wayne, Shawn and Tim can mix up their vocal stack in all sorts of ways. Each is a distinctive lead singer. Though in this case they are embracing the “traditional” theme more directly in this collection of songs, it is not a significant departure from anything they have done in the past. More than anything else, for fans of Blue Highway, they are being given a healthy dose of comfort food. This is a group that is saying we are still here and we plan on sticking around. Y’all come.


Rounder Records

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