Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver show how it's done with traditional bluegrass anthems on In Session.
While the modern country scene, with its slick rock and hip-hop influences and crossovers and overall “bro” scene may be overrated, the original infrastructure upon which it sits -- traditional bluegrass and Southern sounds -- lives on to this day as a rapport for music preservationists in musician Doyle Lawson. A Bluegrass Hall of Fame member, Lawson’s name sticks out within today’s country scene like a sore thumb someone would be grateful for, offering a staunch conservationist’s approach to classic music with a knack for innovation all the same. Together with his infamous band Quicksilver, Lawson is at it again in the collective’s latest release, In Session, complete with school-themed album packaging to accentuate that they are master craftsmen of the “School of Bluegrass”.
In Session makes a wide push outwards through saloon doors in the rollicking “Roll Big River”, featuring impeccable harmonies that are matched only by the band’s six pickers' ridiculous abilities on their string-based instruments. It’s a flurry of guitars and banjos which, accompanied by enthusiastic, electric vocal polyphonies, set the tone just right for the remainder of the album, proving their stake on the bluegrass genre right from out of the gate. Lawson & Quicksilver continue on to show an astuteness towards their genre’s cultural roots and history, with the good-hearted “Wilma Walker” paying homage to the old-fashioned notion of courting a woman. They also give their fiddling skills a proper showing-off on “Weep and Cry”, an “in your face” mid-tempo track with Lawson offering up a rather impressively sarcastic tinge in his twangy croon.
Lawson and his Quicksilver companions also pay direct homage to the golden age of music with a slew of grassy updates to some old-school classics, such as the Ames Brothers’ jukebox hit “You, You, You”. Removing the pop-jazz string ensemble from the original rendition and replacing it with a slew of countrified strings and harmonies, they turn it into a modest, subtle proclamation of love packed with a hefty dosage of southern sentiment. The band goes on to test their retro swagger on a blues-drenched cover of Bill Monroe’s instrumental classic, “Evening Prayer Blues”, which might well help in exemplifying the partial origins of swamp rock, yet. They exemplify their top-notch banjo aptitude yet again on follow-up “Reasons Why”, and then wrap things up with a buoyant, dreamy contemporary cover of Moe Bandy’s “Americana”.
With almost 40 albums under their belts, it goes without saying that Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver remain infallible facets of the country and bluegrass industry, and In Session does its job well in offering up yet another impressive addition to the band’s ever-increasing portfolio. Lawson has held up impeccably well as a vocalist, offering up a grand showing alongside co-lead vocalists Dustin Pyrtle and Eli Johnston, with their harmonies striking just the right chord of bluegrass perfection. In Session is jam-packed with stellar harmonies, captivating string picking, and enough traditional melodies to keep any bluegrass or traditional country enthusiast around. Better yet, being an unmatched master work in its field, it might just be a powerful enough showing to convince those not yet interested in the genre to give it a shot.