By: Trevor Pour
With a sophomore album like this, it truly is hard to believe Dan Tyminski was born and raised in New England. That's not to say his hometown of Rutland, Vermont isn't a veritable hotbed of musical creativity, but Tyminski's deep understanding of country western and bluegrass suggests more than a touch of Southern blood coursing his veins. From his roots playing in The Lonesome River Band to his long career with Alison Krauss and Union Station, he has developed both a firm familiarity with and a composed confidence in his abilities. His first album was lauded as a fresh approach to bluegrass-country, and Wheels (Rounder) is a respectable development on that approach whilst remaining a unique entity.
While Tyminski wrote only one track on the disc, "How Many Times," his contribution is unmistakable throughout the album. His vocals are consistently strong without overwhelming the sharp acoustic backdrop created by his team of talented pickers - Adam Steffey, Barry Bales, Ron Stewart and Justin Moses. On Wheels, his band explores the entire landscape of country music, from the slow, heart-tugging lyrics and beautiful flow of "Making Hay" to the extraordinary instrumental showcase of "Knock Knock!" Arguably the most touching moment on the disc is "How Long is This Train," written by Timothy Stafford and featuring the vocals of country legend Vince Gill. With deliberate and simple lyrics, the piece explores the emotions of loss from the perspective of a mourning father. I only wish the song was a bit longer; it speaks with such power that it seemed a shame not to explore a bit more. Unfortunately, the same criticism goes for the entire album, which runs 12 tracks in under 37 minutes. This is an extremely talented crew, and I simply wanted to hear more from them. But nonetheless, Tyminksi leaves us on a positive note, closing his album with "Some Early Morning," featuring the renowned vocal team of Sharon and Cheryl White.
After a half-dozen listens, I can comfortably say that this is one of the best contemporary country albums on the market right now. By blending equal parts lively bluegrass and touching lyrics, Wheels will be accessible to fans on both ends of the country music spectrum. And as is true of any great album, it only gets better with each spin. It's at all times romantic, contemplative and poignant without being cheesy, preachy or any of those other pitfalls that often plague pop country. The instrumentation is truly top-notch, and I can't count the number of times I've thought to myself, "I'd love to see this done live." So, if nothing else, this album will serve as teaser in support of his current tour. But for most fans, Wheels will be a welcomed and valued addition to their collection.
JamBase | Twang-o-sphere
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