By: Sarah Hagerman
There's a unique challenge to recording a bluegrass album. Stay too locked into traditional structures and you may stand accused of stagnating. Stray too far beyond, and you risk upsetting the traditionalists (I say go right ahead and upset them, keeps things lively). Austin's Green Mountain Grass strike a fine sense of balance on As the Crow Flies (Zone Records), exploring their grassy roots with touches of desert peyote trips and hill-country twang in equal measure.
The foursome paint broad brushstrokes inspired by the equally harsh and breathtaking landscape of Texas. Adam "Pickles" Moss' fiddle penetrates the earth of many of the songs, often breaking down in jazzy corners, while Dave Wilmouth (mandolin) and Trevor Smith (guitar, banjo) take a decidedly Spanish twist to their smokin' picking on "Palo Pinto," carving the Rio Grande border through the composition.
Wandering souls populate the record, from the knee-slapping bassy opener "84 Blues," where the foursome "blaze that trail to Austin," to the weighs-heavy-on-the-soul "Bleuridge," where the protagonist takes a train "to where the hell, I don't even know." The latter features crying pedal steel by legendary Texas country musician and producer Lloyd Maines. You can smell the lonely cigarettes of a rural dance hall late in the evening scratching at your nostrils.
But in "Broken Lines" the running is haunted by personal shadows, as Jesse Dalton (bass) sings, "What was once feared shallow/ now is so deep and depraved," and "all this self destruction is just a passing phase," over the plaintive fiddle moan. Life on the road (or on the run) may be well-tread territory, but it's constantly worth exploring, as many of us feel constantly pulled one place or another, racing from skeletons in our past we would rather not acknowledge face to face. GMG mine those depths, and keeps us dancing through that darkness towards breezy dawn on that proud highway.
JamBase | On The Road
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