Many people cringe when they think of traditional bluegrass or formulaic "new country" music because it conjures up purists and bland music by guys with hats and neckerchiefs. If only they would listen to the intelligent, honest approach of John Starling, they would see that the traditional approach can work with current songwriter offerings.
WAITIN' ON A SOUTHERN TRAIN was originally released in 1982. It is a delightful blend of bluegrass with an electric and acoustic contemporary sensibility. Starling is backed by several truly virtuoso musicians including: Sam Bush & John Cowan of New Grass Revival, Alan O'Bryant of Nashville Bluegrass Band, and Mike Auldridge (with whom he played as a member of The Seldom Scene). He selected ten terrific songs by current songwriters to cover that range from bluesy ballads, gospel, and plaintive pleas to honky-tonks and southern boogie.
John also co-produced WAITIN' ON A SOUTHERN TRAIN. He used a tasty mix of dobro, fiddle, mandolin, slide and sweet, so sweet pedal steel guitar. Beautiful vocal harmonies are woven throughout this wonderful offering from one of the pivotal figures in bluegrass music.
All told, WAITIN' ON A SOUTHERN TRAIN is a CD that THIS urban, neo-traditional country boy keeps in a handy place. It sits alongside Starling's first Sugar Hill release LONG TIME GONE and his 1991 SPRING TRAINING. If you dig the Tony Rice/Tim O'Brien/New Grass Revival school of bluegrass and country, give John Starling a listen.
© 1996, Three Rivers Folklife Society. This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.