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Rockin' Acoustic Circus

Lonestar Lullabye

(Flying Weasel Records; US: 14 Sep 2010; UK: 19 Oct 2010)

Bluegrass for the future

Generally speaking, you don’t listen to bluegrass for the innovations. As proponents of a musical form that takes tradition very seriously indeed, bluegrass musicians are expected to know their finger-pickin’ stuff, keep the arrangements tight, respect the history of the genre and leave to Vocoders to somebody else. The danger in this, of course, is that music risks becoming mummified: tunes that are only heard, and played, by people who already know them.


Well, there seems little danger of that on Lonestar Lullabye. Rockin’ Acoustic Circus is five teenagers and one old dude (not really old, but y’know, relatively speaking) who play fairly immaculate bluegrass tunes on the expected array of acoustic guitars, mandolins, fiddles, banjos and upright bass. It would be condescending to say that for a bunch of kids, they’re pretty darn good. Fact is, they’re darn good, period. If Emma Hardin’s vocals fall a little flat on “Skatin’ in the Rain”, the band makes up for it on the rock-solid instrumental “Bethany,” in which Eric Dysart and Sterling Abernathy trade fiddle and mandolin licks, before Emma weighs in with her solo cello and all is forgiven.


Elsewhere the vocals are stronger, as on the saucy, swinging ballad “I Gotta Run,” and everywhere, the musicianship is always at least competent and often much more than that. “Money in the Bank”, another instrumental tune, lopes along like a coyote chasing a tumbleweed (did I really just write that?), while “The Tracker” opts for a softer, slower touch. Rockin’ Acoustic Circus shows that, while bluegrass may be a genre in touch with its past, it’s got a strong claim on the future as well.

Rating:

DAVID MAINE is a novelist and essayist. His books include The Preservationist (2004), Fallen (2005), The Book of Samson (2006), Monster, 1959 (2008) and An Age of Madness (2012). He has contributed to The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, Esquire.com and NPR.com, among other outlets. He is a lifelong music obsessive whose interests range from rock to folk to hip-hop to international to blues. He currently lives in western Massachusetts, where he works in human services. Catch up with his blog, The Party Never Stops, at davidmaine.blogspot.com, or become his buddy on Facebook (or Twitter or Google+ or whatever you prefer) to keep up with reviews and other developments.


Tagged as: bluegrass
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