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We’ve Come Along is Mark “Huggy Bear” Lavengood’s third solo album, and the Dobro playing multi-instrumentalist (guitar, dobro, mule weissenborn, congas, bongos, claves, tom tom) singer-songwriter with the help of his band Bluegrass Bonanza cut it up. Apart from playing with his band, Lavengood will be known to many for his part played in Lindsay Lou & The Flatbellys.
Recorded in Detroit, Michigan Lavengood and the boys; Kyle Rhodes (vocals, guitar, mandolin), Jason Dennie (vocals, mandolin, guitar), Spencer Cain (upright bass) and Keith Billik (banjo) cover much ground as they take bluegrass into new areas without any major detours. While Jerry Douglas is regarded, and has been for decades as the world’s greatest exponent of the Dobro there’s a number of wonderful exponents out there, and in Lavengood you have one of the finest. His deft touches and melodious rolls are augmented by occasions when he takes the bulls by the horns to go for broke.
The album opens with a long, well worked introduction to the band as each player is allowed space to shine on the seven minute title-track “We've Come Along” (something Boone Creek might have done?), and it is from there their sound takes shape. With a terrific hotly picked version of country classic “Ol’ Slew Foot” (Howard Crocket, James Webb), and Lavengood’s prowess on Dobro shown in all its majesty on “Interlude For L.A” and “Mule Kick” to go with his amazing picking on the band’s cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart” the benchmark is set. They make it sound like it was written with genre in mind, first class. One tune most definitely penned for the music they perform is Arthur Smith’s “Bound To Ride”, on which you have a heap of fired-up banjo, upright bass, Dobro and acoustic guitar to go with rhythmic mandolin, tight harmony vocals and lead from the excellent Rhodes. It is followed by arguably Lavengood’s finest playing as he tenders a reprise version of “Interlude For L.A” (once again performing solo only this time he plays his Lazy River Guitars Weissenborn style slide guitar instead of his Scheerhorn R body square neck resophonic guitar), and with his biggest and most meaningful song that's kept to last “America”. This as he speaks of his love of his homeland, and the complex history of the social class, and with his easy but nevertheless strong vocal he delivers a song he can be truly proud of.
It leaves us with his own “Three Day Blow”, and Russ Brakefield’s “Vulpes Vulpes”, both have an innovative roving feel; akin to music of the likes of Sam Bush and John Cowan of New Grass Revival as boundaries are stretched and new fences built.
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