When it comes to bluegrass, my enthusiasm is only slightly shy of rabid. Bands like Open Road only feed my fervor. This young band has been around for a little over a year but they are already creating some of the most vibrant and authentic bluegrass I have ever heard. Their sound harkens back to the original sounds of pioneer bands like Vern and Ray and the Stanley Brothers. Lead singer, Bradford Lee Folk, has that high lonesome tenor that will delight traditionalists while sending contemporary "hot-country" fans running for the exits. His unabashed hillbilly twang is strictly a bluegrass thing, God bless 'em. Caleb Roberts, Open Roads' mandolinist also has a classic style that favors tremolo'ed double-stops over fast runs, and deep feeling rather than flash. But if you do need some instrumental pyrotechnics, Jean Ballhorn, Open Roads' fiddler, will be happy to oblige. This girl can practically burn the strings off her violin.
While a majority of the songs on this first album are by such bluegrass stalwarts as A.P. Carter and Ralph Stanley, Bradford Folk contributes three fine songs that rival the best of the old classics. Jean Ballhorn's contribution "Friday Blues", completes the album with a haunting instrumental in the Kenny Baker style.
Produced by Dobro virtuoso Sally Van Meter, engineered by James Tuttle, recorded at the late Charles Sawtelle's studio Rancho deVille, and mastered by David Glasser at Airshow in Boulder, Colorado, you'd be hard pressed to find a CD that sounds better no matter how hard you look. The combination of great music and superlative sound make this my pick for the best album from a new group I have heard this past year.
Sound Quality: 95