Dan Whiteley,
Highway Home
(self-produced, 2003)

Highway Home is primarily a bluegrass CD, but definitely displays the talents of Dan Whiteley and the other musicians by sidetracking into jazz, blues, folk and a rhythm guitar ramble. Whiteley does not simply cross genres, he breaks the barriers between them and brings all his friends through.

It is all but impossible to review this one without mentioning every piece because they have rotated the players and singers in a way that each is illuminated in one of the pieces, yet all are worthy of being mentioned for a superb performance at some point.

The most impressive thing on this entire CD has to be Caitlin Hanford singing lead and then doing her harmony vocals in "Train Full of Tears." It is unusual to find singers doing their own harmony. In this instance, it works splendidly.

There are the old time bluegrass tunes, such as the Bill Monroe favorite, "Shenandoah Breakdown." I thought nobody could get my feet moving like Monroe on this one, but Whiteley and band have done it. I tested this one for "danceability" and it passed with flying feet and colors. This is one for all the flatfooters, cloggers and buckdancers. It does have the traditional breakdown ending for a bit of showboating.

You can hear the Irish roots in bluegrass by listening to "Hop the Fence." The mandolin work in this one has a distinctly Irish quality and reminds us to thank the Irish for bringing the roots of bluegrass to the American shore.

"Whims of Chambers" has some great steel work by Whiteley's dad, Chris. This is the one selection on this CD for the steel lover. "Traveling the Highway Home" has striking harmony between Dan and his sister, Jenny. Later, she takes the lead with a song she wrote, "Folsom." "EMD" sounds more like a case of dueling mandolins. I loved it.

The musicians featured in Highway Home are: Dan Whiteley (mandolin, guitar, whims, bass drum, lead vocals, harmony vocals), Jenny Whiteley (bass, harmony vocals, lead vocals), Joey Wright (guitar), Mark Roy (guitar), Chris Coole (banjo), Chris Quinn (Banjo), Chris Whiteley (pedal Steel, guitar, harp, harmony vocals), Dennis Pendrith (string bass), Andrew Collins (harmony mandolin), Brad Kellar (guitar), Alec Fraser (bass) and Caitlin Hanford (guitar, lead vocals, harmony vocals).

Highway Home is a collection for everyone who loves any of the instruments listed in this review, as there are pieces that showcase each. It is such an eclectic collection of styles and tones that there is something for almost anyone. The talent contained in this collection is really impressive.

- Rambles
written by Alicia Karen Elkins
published 21 February 2004