Minnesota-based bluegrass quintet Monroe Crossing has been quietly releasing albums for years now. The Road Has No End is their 13th, and the first since 2008’s Heartache and Stone. 2013 sees the band in fine form, and the new album shifts smoothly from classic, uptempo banjo-driven tunes such as “Cool Cool Ride” and “Doing My Time” to slower, bittersweet numbers such as “Hobos in the Roundhouse” and “Easy to Get Lost” as well as such frantic workouts as “Bullet Train”.
Fiddle takes center stage in “Foggy River”, while some unexpected—and delightful—harmonica shows up in the lighthearted “Bread & Milk”. The musicianship is impeccable throughout, and vocal contributions fom all five members ensure a lively variety from song to song. Monroe Crossing finds a way to make such a relatively strait-laced form as bluegrass sound consistently vital without resorting to obvious tricks (jazz-fusion interludes, unexpected cover tunes). They play their bluegrass the old-fashioned way, and in so doing make it sound as fresh as ever. Nice trick, folks.