The Cumberlands,
Bridging the Gap
(Copper Creek, 2002)

Forty years a growing and that long experience shows through in this showcase of bluegrass as it should be played by experts who obviously love their music and tradition. Over 21 tracks, the group that has fronted for the Kingston Trio gives us a historic tour of tunes old and new.

From the opening instrumental "Mississippi Sawyer" you are hooked. "Days of the Buffalo" is a great story song of days gone by when the iconic beast roamed the plains. With a lovely banjo backing the story unfolds with a vocal that reminded me of a number of story songs in the 1970s like "Convoy" and "Camouflage." "There is a Time" is another lovely track with strong vocal presence and words that are poetic and very clearly sung.

The more familiar song "Satisfied Mind" gets a heartfelt performance here, too. Hearing this rendition we can identify with this very well written moral piece. It is ideally teamed beside "Idols of Gold," taking its inspiration from old-time gospel songs and using biblical images.

Harold Thom's song "Junaluska" is another of those tunes about Native Americans that restores a pride in the people of the land before the arrival of Columbus. It gives us a realistic look at the fate of those great people and the shame of those who so easily forgot their courage and nobility.

Every bluegrass CD needs a good railroad song and the track here called "Charleston Western Carolina Railroad" fits the bill excellently. You can feel the rhythm and smell the smoke as you drift away with the tune. "Jack Dringo" represents the gunfighter ballad so essential on a CD like this.

With a title and performer name like this CD you would expect to hear "Cumberland Gap," and you will not be disappointed as the Cumberlands give us a great rendition that will exhaust you just from listening. "Two Little Boys" was a saccharine song when it was a hit in the UK for Rolf Harris and I hated it. This version makes it into what it must have been written to be. Here there is a sense of reality and genuine feeling.

The treatment of "Wayfaring Stranger" is inspired. The harmony works to great effect and prickles the neck hairs.

This CD is a must for any fan of good music but an essential for bluegrass lovers. Even if you have some of the tracks before, get them packaged together by this great group.

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 1 March 2003