FAME Review: Cumberland River - The Life We Live
Cumberland River - The Life We Live

The Life We Live

Cumberland River

Rural Rhythm Records - RUR-1003

Available from Cumberland River's online store.

A review written for the Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange
by Frank Gutch Jr.

It takes a lot to bring someone of Timothy Olyphant's stature to the small screen. It takes money, yes, and a project you just can't pass up (unless, that is, you have no sense of adventure). FX Networks' Justified put not only Olyphant on the screen, they put together a string of exceptional actors not the least of whom is Walton Goggins who will surely, when all is said and done, be looked upon as the Jack Elam of the present day. The ensemble cast is not everything Justified needs to justify itself either. The writing is topnotch and one need only watch any episode to see the quality in the direction, editing and photography. Then, there's the music.

The music. Funny thing about the music. It was a fluke. Well, not exactly a fluke, but it was put together and presented on the run. Cumberland River, it seems, got a call from the guys putting Justified together and asked if they would submit something for consideration for the series. The band put Justified (the song) together practically right on the way to the audition. Needless to say, they nailed it.

Just as they nail every single track on The Life We Live. There is just enough grit from the country, enough traditional folk from the backwoods, enough bluegrass and enough fiddle and dobro from the barn dance to make the music perfect for Justified. It isn't a backwoods series, you see, at least in terms of what we usually think. It is a clash of cultures, life in Harlan County, and a struggle for survival. Tried to get a job lately?, the script seems to be asking. That and a thousand other questions today seems to present to the, shall we say, uneducated or logic-impaired and their supposedly educated foils. The answers are provided with music accompaniment perfect for the script.

Cumberland River, indeed, seems perfect for the script as well. Three lead voices give them more angles to each song than fishermen have lures or flies, and their instrumental acumen lets them take the songs to the outer edges of genre. Country, bluegrass, old-timey? Depends upon the song and many times, the parts of the song.

This is another winner along the lines of John Reischman & The Jaybirds' Vintage and Unique. Enough traditional to make it traditional but enough talent and attitude to make it present day. These guys don't need the future to get where they're going. They're already there.

Track List:

  • Harlan Man / Dustin Middleton (BMI)
  • Lonely Road / J. Dean & J. Jones (BMI)
  • Cold and Withered / J. Dean (BMI)
  • Outside Looking In / J. Jones & J. Dean (BMI)
  • Give Me One More Try / J. Dean (BMI)
  • Mary Flynn / J. Dean (BMI)
  • Train of Sorrow / J. Dean (BMI)
  • Remember Me / A. Buckner (BMI)
  • This Life I Live / Middleton & Dean & Stewart & Dean (BMI)
  • Miner's Prayer / J. Dean (BMI)
  • Antietam's Hill / Middleton & Dean & Stewart & Dean (BMI)
  • The Road Back Home / Middleton & Jones & Dean & Stewart (BMI)
  • Justified / Dean & Jones & Middleton & Stewart (BMI)

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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