Review: Lonesome River Band – Chronology, Volume 3

When a band with the talents and musical pedigree of the Lonesome River Band decides to record an album of songs chosen in a poll of their fans, the appropriate response from most of us should probably be ‘thank you.’ This (their 15th) disc should more than satisfy listeners familiar with the band’s music as well as offering a perfect primer for anyone new to their particular brand of bluegrass.

As the final installment in a trilogy of CD’s, Chronology,Volume 3 rounds out their most recent musical offering with 10 tracks that have both helped to bolster their reputation as a leading modern bluegrass band and define their sound.

The songs presented here are among the common threads running through their 30 year existence as a band. Few acts in modern music have succeeded in weathering the personnel changes experienced by this group and still come out with their name, sound and, most importantly, integrity intact.

“Long Gone”

It is testament to their abilities then, that in recording songs that chart the band’s history, this most recent line-up featuring Brandon Rickman: guitar, lead and harmony vocals, Randy Jones: mandolin, lead and harmony vocals, Barry Reed: acoustic bass, harmony vocals, Sammy Shelor: banjo, harmony vocals and Mike Hartgrove: fiddle, channel the many notable LRB alumni to such great effect. The unobtrusive virtuosity, driving rhythms, tight harmonies and tasteful song choices are what we’ve come to expect from this outfit and in that respect, this album doesn’t disappoint.

As you might anticipate from a fan-selected album, there’s something for everyone here. There are old and new, fast and slow, along with original and traditional songs. It feels like a balanced record, opening strongly with a powerful rendition of Don Reno’s “Long Gone”, moving then through a wide variety of vibes and tempos before closing with an equally spirited “Sittin’ On Top Of The World.” In between, highlights for me are the moving “Stray Dogs and Alley Cats” written by Harley Allen and the whoop-inducing “Whoop and Ride”, a strikingly fast song that impressively showcases the band’s musical prowess. The original song “Money In The Bank” written by former members Dan Tyminski and Tim Stafford is notable for its similarity to the original recording which impresses mainly because longtime banjo player Sammy Shelor is the only current member to have played on that cut. As leader of the current group, I suspect that it’s Shelor’s musical direction that’s responsible for both the continuity of the band’s sound over the last 22 years and throughout this recording.

If you like your bluegrass clean and polished, then this is a record for you. Retrospectives rarely offer up surprises and some of the songs may feel predictable to those of us who heard them the first time around but to ask for fans to submit their favorite songs and then make those songs into a record is, I think, a nice touch from a band who takes their relationship with their followers seriously. It’s one of the reasons they’re still going strong after 30 years.

Rural Rhythm Records

Iain Birchwood

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