Blue Highway: Through the Window of a Train

By: Sarah Moore

Well-crafted songwriting and an old-time feel characterize Blue Highway's latest release, Through the Window of a Train (Rounder). The bluegrass aficionados took their personal Nashville sound to the mountains of southwestern Virginia, along The Crooked Road, a two-lane highway that contains some of the most cherished country and bluegrass music history. From Ralph Stanley's museum to Bristol, the place where the Carter Family played sessions with Jimmie Rodgers and Ralph Peer, the road travels through mileposts and milestones.

The band set up shop in the intimate Maggard Sound Studios, a favorite of Ralph Stanley's, to create a close-knit record of timeless-sounding tracks. But, this album isn't your daddy's cabin-crafted affair. The location helped the boys to explore a little-planned repertoire, all in the moment and in the presence of humble grandeur. That is, the band brought with them a list of songs but arranged their parts right there in Big Stone Gap. All the pieces found on the record are originals, yet the mood and subject matter are without a time stamp.

The string band effortlessly knits their respective parts into a single entity. Gentle multi-part vocal harmonies clean up any excess grit from the mix, especially in haunting "Where Did the Morning Go?" which laments the swift passage of time with soft crooning amidst an upbeat guitar-driven accompaniment. Jason Burleson's sweet mandolin adds extra twang to the already Southern-accented piece. The title song combines natural, flowing rhymes and sheets of strings for a sincere and heartfelt performance. These guys feel all the words and expressions on their instruments. One can almost taste the mountain air where the album was recorded. Scruggs' style banjo gently lifts the already-popping tune from the ground to its knees. For once, we have a bluegrass record not interested in over-playing or speed contests. Through the Window of a Train is another great piece to add to the historic Crooked Road.

JamBase | Virginia
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[Published on: 6/11/08]

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