Billy Blue Records
Appalachian Road Show’s sophomore album is an ambitious concept brilliantly executed. The 16 tracks on Tribulation, including a series of meditative spoken passages linking the songs into an overall theme, capture the celebration and sorrow, loss and regeneration, faith and perseverance of that unique and often troubled region called Appalachia.
The five members of Appalachian Road Show—Barry Abernathy (founding member of Mountain Heart), Jim VanCleve (another Mountain Heart alumnus), Darrell Webb, Zeb Snyder, and celebrated bass player Todd Phillips—all hail from Appalachia. When they joined forces several years ago, they set out to, in Abernathy’s words, “bring to light the culture and lifestyle of the Appalachian music we grew up in.”
The songs create a rich and vibrant tapestry that highlights the various musical forms and styles that seeped into Appalachia’s mountains and hollows over the past three centuries from as far afield as Africa and old-world Scotland, Ireland, and England. War and its attendant losses and dislocations is a recurring theme that’s vividly fleshed out in songs such as Tim Erickson’s mournful “I Wish The Wars Were All Over” and Frank Proffitt’s “Goin’ Across The Mountain.” Though this collection’s overall mood (as its title attests) tends toward the somber and meditative, there are flashes of old-time humor, as in VanCleve’s comic “Goin’ To Bring Her Back” and Dorsey Dixon and Wade Mainer’s tongue-in-cheek Depression Era “Sales Tax On The Women.”
On various tracks, the band has assists from a number of all-star studio hands, including Bryan Sutton, Stuart Duncan, and Shawn Lane. One of many standout cuts is an exquisite rendition of Stephen Foster’s oft-recorded “Hard Times Come Again No More.” All told, Tribulation is a rustic, heartfelt masterwork and a stirring musical history lesson that grows richer with each listen. (Billy Blue Records, 124 Shivel Dr., Hendersonville, TN 37075, www.billybluerecords.com.)BA