Review: Joe Hott – West Virginia Rail

Although billed as “bluegrass” by his record label Joe Hott is much bigger than that; bluegrass, country, old-time, folk, and Americana all seem to cross in his sound. “Traditional” sums it up as much as anything, though it sounds a lot like country to a bluegrass fan – that said, yeah, traditional country… with a really good dose of traditional bluegrass thrown in.

And the sound? West Virginia Rail isn’t “New” (aka “Pop”) country. There’s no drums, no fireworks, and the fiddle, well, sounds the way a good fiddle is supposed to, nothing plugged in there either. 🙂

And what would you expect from traditional country/bluegrass? Of course the title (and opening) song “West Virginia Rail” is a train song, followed by gospel, lonely, leaving, and love songs. Somewhere in there must be a prison song too!

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“West Virginia Rail”

Even though Joe is a young rising star, he’s honed his craft over six albums and an entire (short) lifetime (he’s only in his mid-20’s) of music. So you can be assured that all the songs are well crafted and, if they have a familiar ring to them, Joe cites the Stanley Brothers as a big influence. If you could choose your roots and your musical heroes you couldn’t do better than Joe!

Seven of the twelve songs on West Virginia Rail were written by Joe, and three are connected with the Stanley Brothers (“Loving You Too Well”, “If That’s The Way You Feel”, and “I Can’t Get You Out Of My Mind”).

The band:

  • Ned Luberecki and Scott Vestal splitting the banjo duties
  • Dennis Crouch on bass
  • Aubrey Haynie, Glen Duncan, Joe Spivey teaming on the fiddle
  • Cody Kilby on guitar
  • Casey Campbell on mandolin
  • Joe on guitar and vocals.

While trying to keep track of who played on which track (especially on fiddle) is a bit boggling, it says much for both the production and Joe’s aim for the sound, not to mention the expertise and musicianship of the players, that it all sounds like one band, an album indeed and not a loose collection of songs.

While Bill Monroe is recognized as the father of bluegrass, the Carter’s may well be the grandparents and Stanley’s the god-parents, and I could well see Joe sitting happily in on any of their sessions. Be sure to pick this one up, especially if your ear enjoys a trip to the country side of things!


Rural Rhythm Records

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