“River Boy is a band, an album, and a song,” according to its website. Although from South Carolina, River Boy frequently offers a relaxed style that reminds one of the best Yankee traditional ’grass of the 1970s. The headwaters of River Boy are Shayne Floyd, who had been singing and playing on guitar the original songs he composed for years when he hooked up with a pair of professionals in 2008. Walter Biffle (guitar, banjo, bass, and tenor singing) and Bob Sachs (mandolin and baritone harmonies) began working with Floyd on shaping ten of his songs and his slightly Celtoid tune “River Boy,” plus Ian Tyson’s “Summer Wages” (well-known in bluegrass from the New South’s rendition) into River Boy: Acoustic, Bluegrassy Music.
What the subtitle is trying to say is that River Boy consists of mostly straightforward bluegrass songs and a couple pieces, such as “Cameron Grove,” that could be called original music performed on bluegrass instruments. Even those would fit in the set lists of most contemporary bluegrass bands without raising a ruckus.
Floyd exhibits the ability to compose bluegrass songs in a variety of tempos and settings on a number of different themes. “Caroline” reminds one of some of the most popular bluegrass titles of the 1970s, while “Walkin’” would easily fit with many of today’s bluegrass acts. “Christ The Savior” could be covered by bands from any era of bluegrass history. “Harlan, KY” enjoys some of the sweetest picking on River Boy, but lyrically lacks authenticity. It doesn’t sound like a song someone from Harlan would write; there is not word one about coal. Otherwise, River Boy works as both an enjoyable listening experience and a nice set of generally cover-worthy songs. (River Boy Music, 708 Condon Dr., Charleston, SC 28412, www.riverboymusic.com.) AM