Eathan Hughes - lead vocal, dobro
Russ Carson - banjo, rhythm guitar
Nate Grower - fiddle
Marc MacGlashan- mandolin
Sav Sankaran - bass, vocals
Frank Solivan II - lead guitar, vocals
Wally Hughes - tenor vocals
Norman Wright - tenor vocals
Ethan Hughes can't remember a time when
bluegrass music wasn't being played around his house. Aside from the radio
and the record player, his mom and dad had a bluegrass band called Fretloose.
Ethan says "I grew up listening to most of these tunes during my
parents' Wednesday night band practices. I didn't even know I knew these
tunes. I kind of learned them subconsciously I guess." It's obvious
from this recording that a lot of things about bluegrass music are rooted
in Ethan's subconscious. He learned how to sing and phrase his singing
and dobro playing. Perhaps the most important thing that imbedded itself
in his subconscious is how to sing and play with taste. Ethan is about
20 years old, but that represents 20 years of listening to and loving
good bluegrass music. Most of the musicians on this CD are young men like
Ethan, and they play some hot leads and interesting backup, but always
with taste. Listening to this CD you never get the impression that any
of the musicians are trying to prove how fast or how traditional or how
non-traditional they can sing or play. This CD contains inspired impressive
music, but it seems to flow out of the musicians with ease and confidence.
Track 1 fittingly starts out with a song written by Ethan. He plays the
intro on the dobro, and Nate plays one of his fine fiddle breaks. It's
worthwhile to pay attention to the tone that Mark Mcglashin gets on the
mandolin solo. It's great in the pocket playing. Russ Carson's banjo playing
here, and on the rest of the CD shows his mastery and devotion to Scruggs
style bluegrass banjo. I think I hear a little J.D. Crowe in there as
well. Russ plays solid rhythm guitar on this track and all but two of
the other tracks on the CD as well. Frank Sullivan II does something not
easy to do on this, and most of his other solos on the CD. He plays a
great bluegrass guitar break that doesn't sound like Tony Rice played
it first. I love Tony's playing, and Frank shows his respect for Tony
very clearly on one of the tracks, but this solo shows his own personal,
well developed style of flatpicking. The trio singing is beautiful. To
me Ethan's lead singing is the thing that really makes everything work.
Sav Sankaran sings tenor on this track while providing the foundation
for the whole shebang with solid bass playing. Frank Sullivan II sings
the baritone part. It sounds just right.
Track 2, Ethan says "I know this song to be originally done by Ted
Lundy and the Southern Mountain Boys (with Bob Paisley on guitar). I first
heard our family friend Joe Haftl sing this song with my parents. Joe
was also on the Ted Lundy and the Southern Mountain Boys recording and
sang lead on the chorus. This is another fine trio song with Ethan's dad,
Wally Hughes, singing the tenor part. Otherwise the personnel is the same
as track 1.
Track 3. Ethan learned this song from the record of an obscure folk-singer.
The version that he sings though is pure bluegrass. They must have recorded
this one while Frank went out for coffee, because this is the only track
he isn't on. It's a father son duet with Wally singing tenor again. It's
like a brother duet only better. I love Ethan's lead singing on this.
Track 4. Deep River was written by Paul Williams. Ethan says "This
is a tune my dad has sung since the beginning of time. Danny Paisley and
the Southern Grass have recorded it. Orrin Starr did a version too."
This one is another father-son duet with similar personnel as track 2,
but no baritone voice. This is the track where Frank Sullivan II pays
a fitting tribute to Tony Rice in his solo. It's fitting to do this because
Tony changed the way guitar leads are played in bluegrass. The solo is
not a copy of something Tony played, but you can hear his influence in
Frank's approach. There's a lot of fine dobro playing on this track for
upcoming players to learn from. Nate plays a burning fiddle solo, and
Mark plays a very impressive mandolin solo. Russ Carson plays both the
solid rhythm guitar and inventive and rock solid banjo lead and backup
Track 5. They did this instrumental without Russ. It might have been his
turn to get the coffee. That taste thing shows up here again. Panhandle
Rag was written by Leon McAuliffe and recorded by Bob Wills and the Texas
Playboys on a recording that featured Leon's steel guitar. I've heard
bluegrass players play this like a 33 1/3 record going at 78 rpms. This
men have already shown that they're not afraid of speed, but they play
this with a gentle swing that is truer to the original than many faster
versions. Ethan does a great job of adapting the tune to dobro, and Nate
plays as fine as ever. Frank plays a surprising and wonderful solo on
this track. His playing shows that he listens to a lot different kinds
of music and has no trouble making it bluegrass swing. Mark does a solo
on this that made me do an audio double take. It sounds as though he took
McReynolds picking a step further and cross-picks between three pairs
of strings. Original, tasteful stuff.
Track 6. Ethan learned this song from his dad, Wally who learned it from
a Lou Reid recording. It was written by Norman Wright, and Norman sings
the tenor part in the nicely blended trio chorus. Ethan does a fine dobro
solo on this. Did I mention that Ethan's good taste clearly extends to
his choice of songs?
Track 7. This is another song that Ethan learned from the folk-singer's
record, but he sings it much better than the guy he learned it from. Ethan
is not playing dobro on this track, but a Weissenborn style Hawaiian guitar
that's played on the lap like a dobro, although Ethan is using a different
tuning. This tune has only Sav, Mark, Russ and Ethan on it. They were
warming up before the session really started. I think putting this on
the CD was a great decision. Ethan does a fantastic vocal on this, and
I think that Sav really shines on this track. He lays down a great groove
for the song.
Track 8. This is a tune that was performed by Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver.
Ethan says he remembers hearing Joe Haftl sing it when he was little.
Frank sings baritone and Wally sings tenor. They make a great sounding
Track 9. Bill Monroe recorded this song on an album that he did in the
1970s. The later Bill Monroe albums might not get the attention that the
early ones did, but they should. The quality of Monroe's output varied
very little after the first recordings with the classic band that included
Earl Scruggs, and the later records deserve more attention. They were
no longer ground breaking, but the musicianship was at a very high level.
Ethan learned this from the singing of Keith Waddell. Keith is a very
fine singer and a killer guitar player. The second verse came from him,
Monroe did not record it. I love Frank's guitar solo and fills on this
track. The song suits Ethan's singing and the dobro playing is consistently
fine. Sav sings the tenor part.
Track 10. This song is a waltz written by Paul Overstreet. Ethan found
it on The Seldom Scene's 15th Anniversary Celebration recording. It's
the only waltz on the CD, but the performance is as good as the rest of
Track 11. Ethan heard his dad and Kevin Short sing this one. This tune
was a rock and roll hit for the band Nazareth. It sounds beautiful and
bluegrass to me.
Track 12. The CD ends as it began with a song that Ethan wrote. It's a
blues. There'd be no bluegrass without blues. God bless Buck Graves for
playing such bluesy dobro. I think that he might have been some of the
inspiration for the very bluesy dobro part that Ethan plays. Ethan sings
this one as he sings on the rest of the CD. Great. Frank's solo reaches
out of the bluegrass idiom to bring some phrases in that fit perfectly.
What a wonderful CD