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Produced by Grammy-winning multi-instrumentalist Dirk Powell and recorded at his studio, The Cypress House in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana Southern Crescent has all the drive, and swagger you would expect from a hot bluegrass ensemble such as the North Carolina quartet.
That is not all, because Asheville, NC Town Mountain allow some of America’s south seep into their musical make-up. As you have the rollicking boogie woogie, piano, fiddle et al fuelled “Comin’ Back Home To You” line up alongside “House With No Windows” and title-track “Southern Crescent” alongside staple hot to go, innovative and sparkling newly penned traditional tunes from the quartet of Phil Barker (mandolin, vocals), Jesse Langlais (banjo, vocals), Bobby Britt (fiddle) and Robert Greer (guitar, vocals). Helped by Nick DiSebastian (bass, guitar “Leroy’s Reel”) and Dirk Powell (drums) plus Joel Savoy (fiddle) and Wilson Savoy (piano) on “Comin’ Back At You” as the boys utilising twin-fiddle add a Mississippi - Louisiana feel.
Southern Crescent is a landmark recording for many reasons, apart from it seeing the bluegrass ensemble travel down to Louisiana instead of staying in their home state to further develop and carry their sound. For one it is the first release for the newly founded Lo Hi Record label, based in Greensboro, N.C the label is a partnership of entrepreneur & marketing veteran Jim Brooks, East Nashville singer-songwriter Todd Snider, record producer Tim Carbone (Railroad Earth) and Chad Staehly (Gold Mountain Entertainment, Nashville). Even for them it is quite an adventure, although Snider has long ploughed his own furrow when it came to releasing records and encourages artists to stay true to their heart.
Comparisons are likely to be drawn with another NC bluegrass ensemble, the wonderful boundary spanning Chatham County Line, and why not. Because this unit is right up there with them! I mention Asheville above, and its well worth giving it another mention because it is fast becoming the place for bands to use as a base, and record music there and more often than not music worth going back to.
Swaying back on forth as they journey “Wildbird” flies with unbridled freedom, as the lead vocals are carried on the wings of fiddle and banjo. Out up through hills and down the valleys off Appalachia in outstanding fashion. “Long Time Comin’ has a similar exciting verve to “Wildbird” before they drop back into traditional sounding lonesome piece “I Miss The Night”; but nothing holds a candle to “Comin' Back To You”. When it comes to story-telling the well worn lead on “House With No Windows” introduces a sobering feel enriched in bluegrass country blues, and like with the title-track with it's affinity to train travel and lonesome feel of being separated from one's roots “Southern Crescent” it too has the listener ride first-class.
Fiddle doused “Leroy’s Reel” (the record also opens with a rousing, old-fashioned breakdown in “St. Augustine”) instrumental slots in perfectly, before the boys tip their hat to one of their great influences, bluegrass rebel Jimmy Martin. “Tick On A Dog” is a perfect song for the late Martin, since the colourful legend and his hunting dogs and great love of bluegrass were inseparable. “Arkansas Gambler” rattles along in rapid time as Barker and C. Humphrey 111's ballad about not going back to Arkansas is fuelled by banjo and lonesome hinted fiddle. On wrapping up the album “Whiskey With Tears” is one of those barroom country etched bluegrass affairs and, like with “Ain’t Gonna Worry Me” is touches all bases that this innovative, hard driving unit are about.
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