This is a blast of fresh air: half an hour or so of exuberant mountain music played with a huge sense of fun and a real rocking drive. Todd Novak's day job is as the front man for The Cowlicks, but long association with Ralph Stanley and his family (including playing at Dr Ralph's birthday party) has led to this album being made with The Clinch Mountain Boys (Ralph Stanley's band, in case you didn't know). From the opening bars of the title track, this is music to put a smile on your face. Steve Sparkman's banjo drives the tune, but so does Todd Novak's vocal. If the whole band were a stagecoach team, then these two would be the lead horses working in perfect tandem. There's a superb balance between speed and grace; this is sharp and precise, driving along at quite a lick whilst giving the impression there's plenty of time in hand.
These are all Todd Novak's songs (apart from Roosevelt's Train) and he has a way of borrowing from various styles to make his own brand of music. There's a few slower songs here (The Number andI Love It When It Rains in particular) where the mountain music instrumentation seems a slightly odd fit on songs built for some other genre - nice enough songs but when it comes down to it, it's the fast ones that really work. There's plenty of highlights: Ralph Stanley sharing lead vocals on It's A Long Road is one, for sure. Hearing Todd Novak rap out the words ofCherokee Lakeat machine-gun speed is another...ach, heck it's mostly just pure dead brilliant and those Clinch Mountain Boys are a wonder to hear. If you liked what Steve Earle did with the Del McCroury Band, you'll love this.
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