Marty Atkinson and Katy Boyd form the core of Blue Cactus Choir, and they've surrounded themselves with seven musicians well versed not only in the bluegrass implied in the band's name but folk and country as well, matching the founding pair's own multiple wont. The septet of sessioneers comes to the affair with experience in Ricky Skaggs', Delbert McClinton's, and Nanci Griffith's ensembles, and thus will be known to many. The result of this meeting, Once in a Bluegrass Moon, is a tasty conflation, with Marty and Katy trading off lead vox while forming their own backing choirs, often reminding one of CSNY, as the promo lit avers, not to mention Firefall and Dan Fogelberg. Too, at 21 songs taking the disc to its sonic limits (80 full minutes!), you're getting a twofer that'll occupy a nice little segment of the day…more than once.
You might recall Atkinson's progenitor band, Cactus Choir, a part of the mass media Curb / Universal / Columbia / Atlantic / EMI universe, obviously quite attractive to ears that mattered but ultimately a victim of the incredibly fickle biz and its shifting allegiances. Marty's a dyed-in-the-wool old guard writer while Katy's the saucy one, frequently ribald, fetchingly persnickety and satirical, oft devastating in one and two liners ("Don't send me flowers / I hate to watch 'em die"). Atkinson's more the Michael Martin Murphey / Rick Roberts type, Gonna be Alright strongly Roberts-esque. It's not hard to deduce that, in olden days, Marty would be out riding the range, and Katy'd be on the back porch yelling for the kids to get their dusty rear ends in for the evening bath and supper…while waiting on the return of her husband and the night's promises.
As Bluegrass Moon runs its course, I find myself especially taken with Justin Moses' banjo and fiddle playing, the five string axe stylistically mindful of Tony Trischka's and Marty Cutler's modern approaches, not to mention Bill Emerson's subtle nuancing and innovative leanings, the four-string mindful of David LaFlamme. In places, the engineering could have been a bit more wisely executed but, overall, the sound is good, the playing very satisfying, and the ambiance all of a piece, an environment that'll have you rollin' with the tumbling tumbleweeds.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2013, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
Website design by David N. Pyles