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The Bucking Mules

Smoke Behind the Clouds – 2017 (Free Dirt)

Reviewed by Fred Frawley

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CDs by The Bucking Mules

There's a lot to be said for preserving and giving a modern voice to traditional American music. The old sounds are, at the very least, comforting. Connecting with them in the digital age can seem like an act of political violence. The Bucking Mules are all about the old sound, of clawhammer banjo, high mountain fiddle and a classic AA:BB pattern. The 17 songs on "Smoke Behind The Clouds" are mostly traditional tunes drawn from the mountains and mill towns of the Carolina Piedmont and East Tennessee.

The Bucking Mules are a four-piece band, whose members all have roots in that corner of the U.S. that has spawned and nurtured this music for a couple of centuries now. This milieu is chiefly responsible for American country music, arising not only from the mountains and hollows, but also from the industrial towns of the region where Lintheads embraced the music of their forebears when they migrated to factory work.

It's a tradition worth preserving and re-connecting with. The Bucking Mules admirably apply their simple instrumentation to prove clear, crisp renditions of songs that are heard nowadays (if at all) from transcriptions from 78 records and two-track recordings.

Joseph Decosimo, Karen Celia Heil, Luke Richardson and Joseph DeJarnette comprise The Bucking Mules. Decosimo handles fiddle and banjo figures with skill. Hall is an accomplished guitarist in the region. Luke Richardson chips in on banjo, harmonica, and fiddle and vocals while Joseph DeJarnette provides a solid bass bottom. The players' love and respect for the music pervade "Smoke Behind The Clouds." They are one of today's practitioners of this simple, but fulsome music and with DeJarnette producing, have created an attractive recording to enjoy and return to.

"Smoke Behind The Clouds" may not break any new ground - it has no such intention - but it invites the listener to join in The Bucking Mules' love of the music.