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Posted October 1, 2010
Mighty powerful bluegrass medicine
Playing Time- 38:56 -- Folks at Rounder Records have a knack for finding bluegrass bands that can, as Kitsy Kuykendall’s liner notes say, “cook up a sound for today that is new but old at the same time.” That’s why they signed Open Road in 2002, after hearing their first album produced in 2000 by Sally Van Meter. Meeting in the mid-1990s at jam sessions in Fort Collins, Co., the members of Open Road decided to form a “young traditionalist” band in 1998 and set their sights on preserving a bluegrass sound of yesteryear. These purveyors of the traditional style of bluegrass know how to offer just the right type and amount of musical interaction to emphasize an inspired and spirited bluegrass sound that could be five decades distant. Some of their covered songs from the likes of Charlie Monroe, Buck Graves/Jake Lambert, Bill Grant/Delia Bell, and Kitty Wells can be traced back to a classic era in the bluegrass and country genres. However, on this CD, their third on Rounder, Open Road isn’t shy either about including some new originals, such as guitarist Bradford Lee Folk’s title track and “Wanderin’ Blues.” Did you know that Folk is a “real” cowboy? Banjo-player Keith Reed penned the high-stepping instrumental “Shotgun,” a little ditty that incorporates plenty of string bends and even some Scruggs tuner action. Original Open Road banjo-player Jim Rummels has apparently moved on to other endeavors. The rest of the band includes Caleb Roberts (mandolin), Eric Thorin (bass), and Paul Lee (fiddle). All five band members sing, although lead vocals are predominantly sung by Folk whose vocalizing has a rustic purity at the heart of bluegrass. Roberts doesn’t have the best of singing voices, but his rendition of “After Dark” is delivered with earnest effort. Vern Williams makes a cameo appearance, singing with Folk on “I'm Lonesome,” a song learned from a Larry and Happy Smith recording. And what would a set like this be with a novelty tune like “Tater Patch” with its cute hook…or an upbeat traditional fiddle tune like “Little Rabbit.” Dressing the part, these showmen also understand the need to entertain. Besides their suits, the guys wear Stetson hats, perhaps some are even of the “open road” style. Produced by Sally Van Meter, “Lucky Drive” has a spontaneous feel to it because many of the songs had not been overplayed and their thrills worn down by the band before they set out to record them. Folk claims to “live the music we sing about,” and this fact may allow them to deliver the gritty goods with plenty of personality and credibility. This album is one for all who enjoy a visceral brand of bluegrass. Open Road strives for music that is both explosive and emotional, and they successfully impart a traditional stamp on a mix of classic and contemporary material. It makes for mighty powerful bluegrass medicine. (Joe Ross)Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.