Four members of this Clarksburg, W.Va., band contribute original songs for this their debut recording. Rachel Burge, who sings and plays mandolin, opens the album with her minor/modal-tinged declaration of “Looking For A Sign” for when it’s time to let go of a relationship. Thirteen songs later, reso-guitarist Bruce Jones closes the recording with his solo instrumental, “Peaceful Journey,” a meditative piece that provides a fitting contrast to the thicker sound of the other tunes. In between are five originals from singer/banjoist Ramie Bennett and four written by singer/bassist Don Anderson. There are two standards, one, “Ashes Of Love,” with some new flourishes, the other, “One Tear,” rather straight.
Looking at the original songs, I felt the melodies are reasonably good, though not overly catchy. I also thought the themes and story lines were somewhat conventional; the rambling life (“The Gambler”), crime and redemption (“In Her Prayers”), hard times (“Year Of The Locust”), longing for the country (“Big City” and “West Virginia In My Rearview”), to name a few.
However, and it is on this that the album succeeds, the attention to detail in the production and the arranging is of a high order. Obviously a good bit of thought went into the arrangements. This is not just an album of verse, chorus, solo (although there are a few such instances—which is not a bad thing), but rather one of nicely orchestrated parts, ensemble passages, lively rhythmic punctuations and pre-arranged solos and fills, coupled with the use of studio effects such as chorus and reverb to help create a unique and engaging sound. Add to that three excellent lead voices, good harmony and tight instrumental work from all the members, including guitarist Lance Gainer, and you have a debut that settles in at the good-to-very-good level. Keep them in mind and ear. (Mountain Fever Records, 1177 Alum Ridge Rd. NW, Willis, VA 24380, www.mountainfever.com.) BW