The first time I heard Darrell Webb he was performing with Michael Cleveland's Flamekeeper band at the 2009 Colorado Midwinter Bluegrass Festival. On the second tune Cleveland broke a string on his fiddle, and while he changed strings Webb performed a solo version of the Jimbo Whaley song "Kings of Orebank." It was my favorite song and performance during the entire festival.
Webb's career began with a stint with the Lonesome River Band, soon followed by time in J.D. Crowe's group. He also played on two of Dolly Parton's bluegrass albums. Webb was a founding member of the band Wildfire, who released three albums on Pinecastle Records before disbanding in 2009. During the last several years Webb played guitar and sang lead for Michael Cleveland's band, Flamekeeper. In 2009 Webb assembled his own band. With Jeremy Arrowood on bass, Chris Wade on banjo, Asa Gravley on guitar, Jacob Joines on dobro and Webb on lead vocals, guitar, and mandolin the band combines youthful energy with professional polish.
On his new album, Bloodline, everyone can enjoy a fully orchestrated version of "Kings of Orebank," along with eleven other songs. Although Webb is an accomplished songwriter whose work has been recorded by Lou Reid and the Lonesome River Band, others wrote the songs on Bloodline. My favorite cover, besides "The Kings of Orebank," is Webb's version of Stanley Johnson's "Big Black Train." which features some fine dobro solos by Tyler Kirkpatrick. The title tune, written by Larry Cordle and Connie Leigh, highlights Webb's arresting lead vocals and precision mandolin licks. Overall Webb's band sound reminds me more of contemporary bands such as Blue Highway than traditional groups like Del McCoury. While not as tightly wound as Flamekeeper or Rhonda Vincent's groups, Webb's band is tight, tuneful, and worthy of a place in your bluegrass library.