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Grasstowne
The Other Side Of Towne
Review By Steven Stone
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  Grasstowne combines the classic bluegrass styles of the 40's, 50's, and 60's with the modern musical precision that's de-rigueur for a contemporary super-star bluegrass band. On their second album, The Other Side of Towne, they create a testament to both their instrumental and vocal prowess.

Grasstowne is comprised of bluegrass veterans, all of whom have been featured soloists in their prior bands. Mandolinist Alan Bibey is so well-regarded that Gibson even made a signature model mandolin bearing his name. Steve Gulley's guitar and high tenor voice were a part of Doyle Lawson's Quicksilver band, and for the last ten years, Mountain Heart. He's also much in demand for session work on albums by the likes of Dan Tyminski and Ronnie Bowman. Phil Ledbetter has been adding his resonator guitar licks to great bluegrass bands since 1975. His credits include work with J.D. Crowe & The New South, Wildfire, Grandpa Jones, and Vern Gosdin. Young banjo-whizz Jason Davis and acoustic bassist Dale Perry round out the band's roster.

Although Grasstowne has more instrumental firepower than most bands, it's their lead vocals and harmonies that move to the forefront on The Other Side of Towne. On slow ballads such as "God Bless Mommy" their heartfelt singing carries tunes beyond pathos. Also their arrangements are carefully crafted to maximize each song's emotional impact. They don't just rare back and go hell-bent for leather on every tune like Audie Blaylock or Michael Cleveland's bands. Instead Grasstowne sculpts the pace and energy of even their fast tunes so that you feel like they always have a tiny bit left in their tanks for a final burst of energy.

Steve Gulley and Alan Bibey bring their best songwriting chops to The Other Side of Towne.Bibey's instrumental "Tobaccoville Road" has a catchy mix of Celtic and blues influences to make it sound new yet oddly familiar. Gulley's song, "Somebody's Gonna Let You Down," combines modern narrative lyrics with a classic bluegrass melody. The result is an almost sure-fire bluegrass hit. On Bibey's "The Day Hell Freezes Over," Grasstowne demonstrates that even on a slow waltz they can still swing. Phil Ledbetter's first dobro solo is perfect, which is a pretty good way to sum up this whole album bluegrass delivered as perfectly as humanly possible.

 

 

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