Two songs on this impeccable CD stand out, not because they're better than the rest. Indeed they're not. In fact, I couldn't tell you that any one song on this CD was better than any other, such is the way with Bluegrass. However, the fifth cut, Living It Up, and the thirteenth cut, The New John Henry Blues, stand out because of the arrangements and personnel.Junior Sisk, the band's guitar player is apparently a recent addition to the band, and he has drastically altered the sound and style of Baucom, Bibey, and BlueRidge. Sisk appears on eleven of the thirteen cuts, so one can assume that this is the sound that Baucom, Bibey, and BlueRidge is going to stick with.
It's a great sound: tight four part vocals with Terry Baucom, banjo, holding down the bottom end; bass player, Ed Biggerstaff, taking the tenor; Alan Bibey, mandolin, doing the close-to-the-melody baritone; and Junior Sisk singing the lead. The instrumentation is equally skilled, but leans heavily toward the tradional configuration with banjo and mandolin taking the vast majority of the solos that the fiddle player doesn't get.
Living It Up and The New John Henry Blues stand out because Junior Sisk is missing. Thus the lead vocals go to Alan Bibey and Ed Biggerstaff respectively, and Bibey does the guitar parts. Bibey's guitar playing is nearly as good as his mandolin playing and he able to infect these songs with a wonderful sense of drive (both in the leads and the rhythm) that Junior Sisk lacks. Where Sisk sticks to the middle of the beat and lets the banjo, fiddle, and mandolin push the emphasis around, as guitarist Bibey pushes the beat and plays with a more bluesy feeling.
Baucom, Bibey, and BlueRidge are an outstanding tradtional Bluegrass band. But that happened when they hired on Junior Sisk. Prior to Sisk's appearance, Baucom, Bibey, and Blueridge could have veered easily into "Newgrass," and they would have been great at that too.
Highlights of the CD (for this reviewer --yours may differ):
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