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Lonesome River Band

Turn on a Dime – 2014 (Mountain Home)

Reviewed by Larry Stephens

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CDs by Lonesome River Band

Sammy Shelor's banjo playing is just one facet of another great CD from the Lonesome River Band.

Shelor is one of the top banjo players on the circuit, and he always has a great band. Brandon Rickman plays guitar and sings half the leads. He also co-wrote three of the songs. "Lila Mae" and "Hurting With My Broken Heart" are love gone wrong songs while "If The Moon Never Sees the Light of Day" celebrates a good love affair. Mandolinist Randy Jones shares the lead singing duties, and he's featured on a new arrangement of Merle Haggard's "Shelly's Winter Love." The band features this number at most of their appearances, and the new arrangement breathes life back into the song.

"Holding To The Right Hand" is an excellent gospel number while "Every Head Bowed" is a fun look at Sunday through a boy's eyes. "While Daddy says grace put that fork back down" says it all for a hungry boy waiting for Daddy to get done praying "while everybody's dinner done got cold." A third number is "Don't Shed No Tears," featuring an excellent, unusual arrangement of instrumental breaks while telling the story so often repeated in church: don't cry for me when I'm gone for I'm home at rest.

Mike Hartgove continues to play the fiddle for LRB while newcomer Barry Reed plays bass. You get to hear the instrumentalists featured on "Bonnie Brown," a quick number about a difficult young woman and on the old standard, "Cumberland Gap."

From slow and sentimental to blazing fast and hard driving, Shelor and crew never disappoint their loyal followers.

By Donald Teplyske
It has been more than four years since the Lonesome River Band, one of bluegrass music's iconic institutions, has released an album of new material. The "Chronology" series revisiting LRB's catalogue notwithstanding, four years is a significant gap by any measure, and the time spent working up the past has seemingly afforded the current lineup the opportunity to come together for a lively, inspired set of modern, highly polished bluegrass.

As he has since joining the group, Brandon Rickman continues to provide a strong lead vocal and guitar presence. The group's 'newcomer'- three years into his tenure - Randy Jones serves as an interesting vocal foil to Rickman, while also contributing pretty appealing mandolin bits. Sammy Shelor remains an influential 5-string banjoman, and his playing throughout this recording is likely to satisfy those who hold him in esteem. Meanwhile, fiddler Mike Hartgrove is given a lot of room to drop in fills and not enough breaks, and Barry Reed lays out the deep notes on bass.

The song selection here is noticeably stronger than on LRB discs of the past decade. "Every Head Bowed" is a lighthearted song based around Sunday morning rituals ("'Amazing Grace,' don't make a sound, or Mama is going to wear that backside out while shouting 'Hallelujah,'" being just one of its attention getting lines.) The sharply written "A Whole Lot of Nothing" and "Bonnie Brown" look at relationships from divergent perspectives, while Merle Haggard's "Shelly's Winter Love" is resurrected to excellent effect.

Don't be put off by possibly the worst album cover of the year; bluegrass music's most casually dressed band is certain to get a lot of well-deserved airplay out of "Turn On A Dime."