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Blue Highway
Through The Window Of A Train

Review By Steven Stone
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  Few bluegrass bands have names that suit them as perfectly as Blue Highway. They combine the best parts of Bill Monroe's high lonesome sound with a more contemporary bluesy country/folk sensibility with a sound sits somewhere between old traditional and young newgrass. Walking down the middle road may at first seem unadventurous, but remaining true to that path requires consummate artistry. Blue Highway has the skills needed to balance on such a narrow centerline.

Collectively the members of Blue Highway have contributed to almost every major bluegrass band, including Alison Krauss, Larry Sparks, Doyle Lawson, and Ricky Skaggs. Unlike many bands who have a clear leader, Blue Highway is a democracy with guitar/vocalist Tim Stafford, bass/vocalist Wayne Taylor, guitar/fiddle/mandolin/vocalist Shawn Lane, Dobro/vocalist Rob Ickes, and banjo/guitar/mandolin/bass/vocalist Jason Burlson all sharing leadership roles on various songs. Through The Window of a Train is the band's eighth release with all five members contributing original material. Some songs, such as "Sycamore Hollow" combine a bluesy riff with an old-timey modal melody line. Others like "Two Soldiers" use an elegantly lilting Appalachian rhythm. The only instrumental, "The North Cove," has a melody that delivers subtle jazz inflections while chasing its own tail.

Bluegrass aficionados can argue long into the night as to whether the dobro should be included in a bluegrass band. Bill Monroe never used one. However, Flatt and Scruggs featured Bashful Brother Oswald's dobro to differentiate their sound and irritate Mr. Monroe, who felt the dobro was "No part of nothin'." Blue Highways' Rob Ickes ranks among the best dobro players you'll ever hear. His fills can be heard throughout Through The Window of a Train, but his solo on "My Ropin' Days are Done" might make even Bill Monroe smile.

Most top-flight bluegrass bands have required a leader to direct their sound in a particular and unique direction. Blue Highway's sound comes through their democratic process. On Through The Window of a Train they prove that a musical democracy can succeed.

 

 

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