The McKrells,
Hit the Ground Running
(Draguin, 2002)

It makes sense that a band could combine Celtic and bluegrass music, and if done well the results would be a real treat. Such is the case with the McKrells.

Based in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., the McKrells combine good songwriting and excellent musicianship. Their music consists of mostly original songs along with a few traditional tunes. Hit the Ground Running is the band's sixth CD and contains some their best songwriting to date.

The band is Kevin McKrell and Craig Laz Vance on guitar and vocals, Chris Leske on banjo, mandolin and guitar, Sara Milonovich on fiddle, tin whistle and vocals, and Brian Melick on percussion. McKrell and Leske share songwriting duties, while Melick brings a unique perspective to the band; his collection of many percussion instruments, including many from the Middle East, works well with the band's sound.

The CD's title track is one of many examples of a nice blend of bluegrass and Celtic music. "Bittersweet and Barbed Wire" is an instrumental tune written by Leskie, and it gives him a chance to showcase his great banjo playing. The CD contains two traditional tunes, a nice version of "Carrick Fergus" and a rousing version of "The Star of Munster." "Sleep" and "Brown Eyed September" have the feel of typical bluegrass tunes and feature some nice vocal harmonies combined with impressive musicianship. Songs like "The Routine" and "The Last Place" show the band's softer Celtic side. "Move Along" is a Celtic-sounding tune with some of Melick's Middle Eastern percussion adding diversity.

Having seen these guys perform live several times, I wasn't sure if a CD could capture the same excitement as their shows. The thing you miss the most is not getting to see Melick's collection of percussion. Hit The Ground Running is full of good music and is an excellent blend of Celtic and bluegrass music.

- Rambles
written by Dave Townsend
published 10 May 2003