Lonesome River Band,
Chronology, Volume III
(Rural Rhythm, 2012)

To celebrate its 30th anniversary, the deservedly popular Lonesome River Band has been issuing freshly cut versions of songs it recorded in the past. (I reviewed Volumes I and II here on 12 May and 27 October 2012, respectively.) No original members survive from three decades ago. Current bandleader and banjo player Sammy Shelor came on board in 1990, the four others later. This lineup is as strong as the group has ever had, but no generation of LRB has failed to deliver the goods.

The goods are tradition-flavored bluegrass with some smartly integrated modern touches, the latter most evident in the markedly percussive use of strings. The vocal harmonies don't sound mountain-derived in any especially deep sense, but they represent no repudiation of that approach, either. LRB's creativity always respects what has gone before, and the result is a style of singing and playing on which the often fractious bluegrass audience is united in admiration.

Another strength is the superior material, unflagging across 10 cuts. My own favorites are Wandell Smith's "Carolyn the Teenage Queen," an interesting twist on the murder ballad, and Shannon Slaughter/William Felts's full-gallop Western "Whoop & Ride." LRB's arrangement of the Mississippi Sheiks standard "Sittin' on Top of the World," which closes Volume III, is adventurous and delightful.

With its tribute to itself now concluded, one anticipates that the LRB will soon be back with a collection of new songs and surprises. All these years on, the band manages to keep renewing itself, always moving forward, always satisfying.

music review by
Jerome Clark

1 December 2012

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