Thank God for the Young Turks. I call them that because while the music industry is in retreat, scrambling for any crumbs left by the chaos of the Download Wars, this growing group of musicians is charging over the rubble and taking their music to the people. Major labels be damned is the cry and music is the message. Discuss all you want the fate of the compact disc and the future of music software. It's the music! The music! The music!
One might not think Pikeville, Tennessee a strategic stronghold for such a charge. Small (pop. Around 2,000) and extremely rural, it sits between the metropolises of Crossville (I know!) and Chattanooga. But get close to the city limits and you might hear not too far distant some of the best roots-driven music going. A lot of bluegrass, a tinge of Nashville, a dash of mountain and a whole lot of melody, in fact.
That would be Carrie Hassler & Hard Rain, up-and-comers so good that they just might put Pikeville on everyone's map. One album ago, they looked like a win, place or show, critics impressed but not overwhelmed. CHHR2 will have those same critics digging through their closets to rehear and probably rethink those impressions because "CHHR2" is a solid winner. Solid.
For one thing, Hassler has a presence as a vocalist, her voice clear and precise. More than that, she controls it, avoiding the pitfalls of many a young vocalist who try to push the limits. Listening to each song, you can feel her love for the music and you most certainly hear it.
She does not do it alone. Hard Rain is one superb bluegrass/country outfit, both vocally and instrumentally. They have the flair of a Hot Rize or Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver. They lay you back and they rock the house. They do everything that you expect from the best of the best and deliver it with their Young Turk souls. They are about the music. From note one, there is no doubt.
Ah, but the music… The songs are a combination of originals and covers, chosen to fit the band's style and sound. Band member Josh Miller tosses in a handful of prime tunes, some his and some co-written. Country Love, borrowed from Mark Nesler, Tony Martin and Jennifer Hanson, could easily be a smash on CMT. The band even gives Bob Seger a roots treatment, including his Turn the Page. And while mentioning music, let us not forget Jim VanCleve. His production is thumbs up all the way, but he would probably say how could it not be, given the talent with which he had to work.
One thing: these Young Turks have a tendency to play for effect, regardless of genre. Hence, the Loudness Wars arguments springing up on various music forums. Listeners into sonics find it somewhat unnerving, this move to pull out the stops at the expense of balance or sound. Sometimes, they are right, certain albums mastered to the point of pounding absurdity, but that is not really the case here. The music is in your face, to be sure, but in this case, in your face is what is needed. It is almost what the band demands.
The only thing left for the band to do is get out on the road and they are doing that, for sure. This past Summer has been one gig after another and they head into Fall with a schedule full of musicfests and even high schools. To make it these days, you have to get the word out and without deep pockets, that means playing. You have to admire the work ethic. You have to love the dedication. Pikeville has to be proud.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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