"Every car on the highway has a story." Says so right on the album jacket. Every band has a story, too, and The Dixie Bee-Liners' should be one of synergistic success, though it is not happening fast enough for me. When "Susanville" hit my desk, it scattered my 2009 Top Ten list to the winds and, like their excellent 2007 release "Ripe" (here), made me second guess such lists, but we are a list-driven society and the two people who read my reviews (thanks, Uncle Ned and Cousin Ferd) hound me each year until I buckle. Since my 2007 list (which included Ripe) I negotiated a clause which enables me to drop the position numbers but ol' Ned and Ferd, big lugs that they are, still demand a list of ten, so I give them to them. Ned? Ferd? Only nine to go.
I am well aware that Susanville will make only a few such lists, and those probably genre-generated, but such is the short-sightedness of many of today's critics and fans. I submit to the argument that the Bee-Liners' instrumentation leans toward Americana, Bluegrass and Country, but slotting them there is akin to calling Hard Rock—uh, Country—just because the musicians have the lack of taste to wear those gawdawful cowboy hats with the bent brims. What I'm saying is, in the end, my friends, it is what it is, not what it appears to be.
And what Susanville is is a damn wonder. The concept is GPS genius in its simplicity. Plug travel plans into your GPS, start engine and drive. From Enter Highway to Destination, you are road- and music-tested and, more than that, entertained. The music is as varied as the regions of the US. (I Need) Eighteen Wheels is Devon Sproule-esque jazzy-edged Americana. Trixie's Diesel-Stop Cafe is fifties and sixties female Country & Western all over again (think Loretta Lynn) and Down the male equivalent. Heavy rocks the acoustic side like an American Fairport Convention or Fotheringay, and Restless is insomnia rock with bluegrass tinges throughout. Susanville, the title track, is ballad-beautiful emotion-as-music.
The Bee-Liners even throw in a two-minute, ten-second track which totally caught me by surprise, albeit a very pleasant one. The Posies' (among others) Ken Stringfellow shares songwriting credits with the Bee-Liners' Brandi Hart, Buddy Woodward and Jeremy Darrow and takes you into Notorious Byrd Brothers territory with the spacey and chorus-heavy Lead Foot. It is downright other-worldly and, for myself, the harmonies are vocal heaven.
I've said this before and, yep, I'll say it again and again until people pay attention. The Dixie Bee-Liners ain't your Granddaddy's bluegrass band, nor are they just Americana. In my head, they transcend genre. And Top Ten? No-brainer. The best thing though, is that this album is a teaser. The step from Ripe, which I loved, to Susanville is huge. The next one gives me something to look forward to. And I'm looking. Forward.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
Website design by David N. Pyles