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Chris Stuart & Backcountry

Mojave River – 2004 (Backcountry)

Reviewed by John Lupton

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CDs by Chris Stuart & Backcountry

2003 was a busy year for bluegrass singer and songwriter Chris Stuart, highlighted by the release of a solo album, "Angels Of Mineral Springs," followed by the formation and debut album ("Saints and Strangers") of his new band, Backcountry and all on his own new label. The reception of the band and albums has kept them busy this year, but not too busy to cut this follow-up disc, another dozen outstanding tracks anchored in Stuart's keen and varied writing talents.

Surprisingly, though, the album opens and sets the tone with a driving version of Townes Van Zandt's "Dollar Bill Blues," and Stuart gives his band mates Janet Beazley ("Take Me Into Your Heart") and Ivan Rosenberg ("Ullapool/The Sleeping Tide") the opportunity to display their writing and composing talents as well as newest member Mason Tuttle.

In the end, though, it's Stuart's versatility with material dealing with themes ranging from spirituality ("Sin Stealer") to drinking ("Old No. 7 and Me") to grief and loss ("Don't Throw Mama's Flowers Away") that makes this a strong second effort from one of the bluegrass scenes up-and-coming bands. (13774 Recuerdo Drive, Del Mar, CA 92014)