The Boxcars,
It's Just a Road
(Mountain Home, 2013)

Let's say it right up front: It's Just a Road is one of the best bluegrass albums of the year. It is, without a doubt, a hands-down winner, filled with fine arrangements, virtuoso playing and great enthusiastic singing.

The Boxcars have, as individuals, spent time playing in the bands of Allison Krauss, JD Crowe & the New South, the Dan Tyminski Band, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, and Blue Moon Rising, among others. Suffice it to say when they formed the Boxcars, they were ready.

Each of their albums has been fine but this one, their third, raises the bar -- which was already set pretty high -- considerably. Taking songs from swing, old-time country and gospel, they give them all their own unique treatment so that everything they touch, whatever its origins, becomes a Boxcars song. The Carter Family's "Coal Miner's Blues" gets a full-scale bluegrass treatment, as does the opener, "You Took All the Ramblin' Out of Me." "Caryville" is a standout. The harmonies are original and telling, and the singing, most of all, is true.

Maybe that's the secret of the Boxcars; they do not create product, they create music. Even a casual listener can tell that they believe what they are playing and singing, that the music is not aimed at the charts, but at the heart. This is not to say the music isn't accessible and fun. It is both of those things, but it is also truthful and sincere. It's Just a Road belongs on the shelves of anyone who appreciates good music, no matter what its genre.

music review by
Michael Scott Cain

19 April 2014

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