Bluegrass so blue it's indigo and a gaggle of pickers so tight they make a can of vacuum-packed good ol' boys scream with envy, that's what this lil' gem is. Michael Cleveland, fiddler, guitar player, and singer goes to town on Bill Monroe's Northern White Clouds, sizzles on Leavin' Town and buzzes like a hornet on Kickin' Back, showing why he's able to attract such a nest of hightone polecats, Flamekeeper. Cleveland's back for his fourth Rounder release…but this is my first exposure, and where the hell have I been??? This is grrrrreat stuff!
Todd Rakestraw is the main guitarist / lead singer and possesses the twangy bluegrass yelp so integral to tradition that you smile from ear to ear just on the first bar. John Mark Batchelor is a hellishly finessy banjo player and when he follows Cleveland through a blizzard of lead runs, oh my gawd! Leavin' Town is an anthology of 14 cuts so soaked in back woods spirit that you'll be pullin' up the corn likker jug as you settle in for a good danged lissen through that high-fangled stereo, grinnin' like the tabby that got the cream. Every track is pristine, bristling with down home grit, interlocking lines, and harmony vocals, not to mention a lil' bit of that back woods reeeligion, Jim-Bob.
This ensemble is a texbook example of why bluegrass is undergoing a renaissance. Prog-grass, nu-grass, and a buncha other splinters leave the field all the more open and receptive to so brilliant a revisitation of where it all came from as we have here. With groups like this and Audie Blaylock (here), none need fret about the hallowed sound going anywhere but exactly where it should.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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