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Grasstowne

The Road Headin' Home – 2007 (Pinecastle)

Reviewed by Larry Stephens

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If there is one thing bluegrassers agree about, it is changes in band lineups are inevitable. Still, it was something of a surprise to see Steve Gulley and Phil Leadbetter leaving bands they helped start for a new venture - but what a group this is. Joined by Alan Bibey and filled out with Jason Davis and Jamey Booher (who joined after this CD was recorded), they have the elements to be one of the best on the bluegrass scene.

Their debut certainly supports those expectations. They start off with a bang with "Dixie Flyer" and that number, along with "Lizzie Lou" and "Black Lung Blues" is a demonstration that they haven't forgotten traditional bluegrass. They do show a clear leaning towards a modern sound with their music. "Patchin' It Up" is a beautiful gospel number, but certainly not traditional. "Home" and "That's Not What Ships are For" are excellent listening, but they feature percussion, viewed as stepping beyond the bounds by most traditionalists.

Gulley, well known for his vocals and, when he wants to, great classical country sound, will win even more fans with "You're Right, I'm Wrong," but he leaves no doubt he can do pure bluegrass with "Bluest Case of the Blues."

Forget any biases about traditional versus "fringe" bluegrass and just sit back and listen to a great band of musicians at the top of their game.