For the most part, Junior Sisk avoids recording bluegrass standards. I say “for the most part” because he did record “Dust On The Bible” on his debut release, Blue Side Of The Blue Ridge, and that tune has seen its share of covers. On this his second release, Heartaches And Dreams, the “for the most part” disappears. It might be argued that such tunes as the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers’ “You Broke Your Promise” from the early ’50s or Clyde Pitts’ “The Laugh’s On Me” from the mid’60s are widely remembered, but you can’t really call them standards.
To go with them, Sisk has revived a couple of minor classics and given them the same rich, traditional sound he brings to all his work. The first of these is Larry McPeak’s slow, countrytinged “Humble Man.” The other two are gospel tunes: the vibrant and stomping 1950s Dottie Swan composition “Let The Light Shine Down” and Pearlie Mullins’ “The Lowest Valley.” Of the three, “The Lowest Valley” (to which Sisk brings a wonderful vibrato on the held notes of the verse) may be on its way to becoming a standard. Already recorded by the Isaacs and by Ralph Stanley, Sisk’s excellent cover may be all it needs to reach such status.
The rest of the songs are of more contemporary vintage. Tom T. and Dixie Hall’s “Train Without A Track” opens the album with the necessary rush. It and “Working Hard Ain’t Hardly Working Anymore” will probably never be standards, but they’re good workmanlike songs and both wellpresented. One that does have classic status potential is the swing/honkytonk “A Black Hearse Following Me.” With its catchy refrain …running with a wide open throttle, a longnecked bottle and a…, along with its cautiontothewind attitude and fine twin instrumental lines, it certainly brings a smile to the face. But, then, so will this album in general. (Rebel Records, P.O. Box 7405, Charlottesville, VA 22906, www.rebelrecords.com.) BW