Don't get the wrong notion, Jim-Bob, this ain't blues but instead sterling top-notch bluegrass…which, I suppose, is blues enough for government work. Wildfire is an appropriate name, as the gents play like a house burning down, and singer-guitarist-writer Robert Hale possesses a classic hoots-n-hollows set of pipes. But then there's Johnny Lewis on a steam engine banjo (the guy never slows down, thank the Lord!), Steve Thomas with his blazing fiddle and mandolin, Matt Despain tossing in a classic dobro, and Curt Chapman plunkin' a washtubby bass walking the rhythm section down the line.
The lads cover a spectrum from traditionals to Vince Gill to Steve Wariner, even to Lionel Richie!, but particularly tickling is the opener, Bill Howard's She Burned the Little Roadside Tavern Down, a great conflation of woman-spurned and ya-shoulda-knowed-better themes, a redneck quickstep waltz grabbing a beer while scooting down the road. Hale also proves himself apt with a pen, contributing two originals, She Lied to Me and In This Town, both worthy, both solidly in the trad bluegrass/country fundaments, with In This Town particularly fetching for its laid-back mellifluity, sprightly but wheatstraw pensive, mindful a bit of Blue Line Highway (here).
Wildfire shows an affinity for Vince Gill, twice covering the gent, and does righteous justice to his Lifetime of Nighttime, a tale of a guy gone blind. The cut is mellow, compassionate, and sung from empathy. On the other hand, you might be in a hoedown mood, so slip over to Paint this Town and kick them heels up in joyous abandon just before settling into a Jesus song, When He Reached His Hand Down for Me, a confessional and purgation to send everyone off with a bit of humility and remembrance. What's bluegrass without a bit of the ol' time religion, hm?, and, of course, without those way too cool harmony vocals and soothing melody? It's all part and parcel, neighbors, all part and parcel.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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