Echoes Of The Mountains
Dry Branch Fire Squad, celebrating over thirty years in bluegrass, has released an outstanding collection of songs rendered in their inimitable style. Founder and leader Ron Thomason has assembled a tight-knit and versatile group—Brian Aldridge on guitar and mandolin, Tom Boyd on banjo and resonator guitar, and Dan Russell on bass. Fiddle king Michael Cleveland also guests on several songs.
The Squad is known for their wide repertoire and blending of traditional bluegrass and old-time sounds, and this album continues on that signature path. Songs include all of the favorite bluegrass themes such as mother, love, death, and the gospel, while mixing in a good dose of soul, dogs, cowboys, and unidentified flying objects.
Death features prominently in the songs “Dixie Cowboy,” “Rider On An Orphan Train,” “Seven Spanish Angels,” “Little Joe,” and “O Captain! My Captain!” Thomason’s clawhammer banjo adds a bit of suspense to these classic songs while the band provides an atmosphere that heightens the effect. A fine example is their wonderful turn on the tearjerker “Echo Mountain.”
As one would expect from the group, gospel songs play a powerful role in the second half of the album. The beautiful hymn “Power In The Blood” is given the a cappella treatment as the quartet unleashes their vocal prowess. Jimmy Martin’s and Paul Williams’ “Stormy Waters” and Larry Sparks’ and Neal Brackett’s “Thank You, Lord” provide the listener with worshipful moments to savor. And, what would a DBFS album be without a little humor, provide here by the cautionary tale of “(You Got To Pray To The Lord) When You See Those Flying Saucers.” Although the band has been through more than its share of personnel changes over its long history, this particular group has assembled a fine collection worthy of the legacy of the Dry Branch Fire Squad. (Rounder Records, One Rounder Way, Burlington, MA 01803, www.rounder.com.) CEB