Review: Buddy Merriam & Back Roads – The Farm

Buddy Merriam’s latest CD, The Farm is a delight. All the songs and instrumentals are original, except for 2 Bill Monroe songs, “Stay Away From Me” and “Bluest Man In Town,” ably sung by guitarist Matt Riley. Riley also sings 3 of his own compositions, the title song “The Farm,” “Live Free Or Die,” and “Snakehead Mandolin.” Kathy DeVine guests singing “In These Hills” by Long Island singer/songwriter Susan Bach. Five of Buddy’s instrumentals round out the CD.

Buddy named the tune “New Echota” after the former capital of the Cherokee nation, located in NW Georgia before their Trail Of Tears expulsion to Oklahoma. It is a beautiful, plaintive melody with sensitive solos by Brian Chazba on 5 string fiddle, Matt Riley on guitar as well as Buddy’s evocative mandolin.

“New Echota”

The Farm is the love story of a young couple who meet, marry, and devote their lives to working the earth. “41 Degnon” is a jig melody that Buddy wrote for his friend and Long Island instrument maker John Monteleone. (I’m not usually partial to jigs, but this catchy melody keeps popping up in my head.) “Stay Away From Me” is a Bill Monroe classic that Matt Riley belts out and the band gets to show off their bluegrass chops. “Live Free Or Die” is another Riley original, and could become an anthem for Libertarians everywhere. Bob Sehy steps out nicely here on the banjo. “Berkshire Mt. Waltz” is a lovely tune I was previously familiar with. During my tenure with Back Roads I recall playing this waltz with Buddy. It was inspired by the original Berkshire Mt. Bluegrass Festival, which has now become the Grey Fox festival. “In These Hills” is a song about the destruction of nature by unchecked urbanization. Kathy DeVine does a nice job singing here. “Bluest Man In Town” is another Bill Monroe tune that Buddy has featured in his band over the years. Carlos Cordero adds a soaring tenor harmony that caps it off nicely. “Avery Anne’s Reel” is one of my favorite tunes on the CD. I love the irregular timing in conjunction with the beautiful melody. “Snakehead Mandolin” is the Matt Riley song that continually brings a smile to my face. Maybe I should say “silly grin”…..listen to the song and you’ll understand. Not only is it a great story song, but there’s a melodic hook that works perfectly. This should become a classic on Mandolin Cafe! “Waltz In The Pines” is another tune that I remember hearing Buddy and Greg Butler play together. Harmonizing mandolins sing haunting and original melody.

I thoroughly enjoyed the music on this CD. It’s fresh, original and loaded with diversity. No question; highly recommended.

Buddy Merriam – Mandolin
Matt Riley – Guitar & Vocals
Brian Chabza – 5 String Fiddles
Ward Cloughen, Carlos Cordero – Bass
Bob Sehy – Banjo
Kathy DeVine – Vocal
Greg Butler – Harmony Mandolin

Jerry Oland

Former HVBA Board Member, banjo player with Buddy Merriam & Back Roads, Blue Plate Special, Bear Acker & Billings Gap, Wildcat Creek, Wheelhoss and the Arm Brothers, currently freelance banjoist with the Hayrollers, the Jupiter Lighthouse Porch Band, novice fiddler, and part-time real estate magnate.

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