STEVE SMITH, CHRIS SANDERS AND HARD ROAD
SIGNS ALONG THE ROAD
There have been changes for Steve Smith, Chris Sanders, and Hard Road. Their third release introduces a totally revamped lineup. Of the band from the first two releases, only fiddler Nate Lee makes an appearance and then on only two songs, including a fine slithering solo on the funky “Isabella.” In their places step a couple of star players and a couple of soontobe star players. Bill Evans, a protege of Smith’s from Cloud Valley, joins on banjo. On bass is Bill Amatneek, formerly with the David Grisman Quintet. Also here are champion fiddler Megan Lynch and upancoming guitarist Aaron McCloskey.
What has not changed is Smith’s and Sanders’ vision and their dedication to presenting a wide variety of musical styles offered in packages that often swirl and change and break free from the usual pattern of verse, chorus, solo, and which are liberally punctuated with rhythmic interjections and interesting chord colorings. Contemporary bluegrass, country, country rock, jazz, folk, and gospel—each gets its moment in the sun. “The Same For You” and Smith’s mandolin instrumental, “Jon Seivert’s Blues” are both straight bluegrass, perhaps even traditional bluegrass in feel. From there it gets further out, culminating in the jazzinflected instrumental “Mice On The Stove.”
Smith and Sanders also continue writing lyrics that bounce between introspective psychological examinations and concrete stories, exploring such subjects as talking about “All Things Left Behind,” breaking free “Link By Link” from shackles mental and physical, making a plea that the actions of the young were once “The Same For You,” and detailing the life of an abused woman who relies on the “Kindness Of Strangers.” These combined with more traditional love and loss themes offer quite an array of emotions. Signs Along The Road refuses any one label, except perhaps that of good, evocative music. (Hard Road, P.O. Box 7892, Las Cruces, NM 88006, www.desertnight.com.) BW