As we continue to deal with a pandemic that careens along like the mythical Hydra, it’s refreshing to know bands like The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys are continuing to write, record and ready themselves for the opportunity get out and entertain folks again. As I sit here in the month of January, listening to this fine new release, the bluegrass bounce is eminently welcome, hopeful and lifts my spirits. It’s been too long, and, personally, I just had to get out a couple of my axes and play along with this recording. You should do the same.
The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys are C.J. Lewandowski, mandolin; Laura Orshaw, fiddle; Jasper Lorentzen, bass; Jereme Brown, banjo; and Josh Rinkel, guitar. All of the band members sing. This is a classic 5-piece bluegrass band that wants to create traditional bluegrass, and they do it very well. I should, at this point, reveal a few biases. First, unbeknownst to me, one of my own songs is on this recording, the gospel quartet Mason’s Lament. Fine job folks, and thank you! Second, I’ve known fiddler and singer Laura Orshaw for quite a few years now. Suffice it to say that on this recording, Laura fiddles up a storm (lots of double fiddle too) and her singing is both plaintive and strong. Third, it appears that the mandolinist and ersatz band leader, C.J. Lewandowski, is from Missouri, my home state. (That’s where I learned my first bluegrass chops, so there you go).
Biases aside, the band and this recording more than holds its own on a variety of merits. The recording is clear and well-balanced, sonically pleasing. We kind of expect that these days, but, you know, I’ve been there many times. They cared about this project, and they put their ears into it. The material is varied and from some great songwriters like Hazel Dickens, Carter Stanley and the band’s own Josh Rinkel, who contributed two fine songs. I would not be surprised at all to hear someone singing “When Are You Gonna Tell Me” at some bluegrass festival jam in the near future (yes, that might be me).
The group covers vocal solos, duets, trios and quartets with everyone contributing somewhere in the mix. Not every band out there can create the variety of vocal combinations that this band uses so effectively. All are solid, seasoned musicians
with plenty of instrumental prowess when called upon.
In summation, Never Slow Down demonstrates one of the really strong, young traditional bluegrass bands that should have no trouble traveling the bluegrass festival circuit as things begin to– hopefully– improve in 2022.