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Hammertowne

Hillbilly Heroes – 2017 (Mountain Fever)

Reviewed by Devin Adams

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In Hammertowne's own words "Hillbilly Heroes" is "BY FAR the best thing we've done to date," and few could argue with that assessment. Prior releases have been solid, even great, but "Hillbilly Heroes" stands above them all. Over half of the tunes included were written by members of the band including Scott Tackett (guitar), Brent Pack (banjo) and most notably guitarist Dave Carroll, who has long written for other artists such as Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out, Lonesome River Band and Junior Sisk & Rambler's Choice.

"Hillbilly Heroes" is personal to the band, perhaps the reason they claim it is their best yet. Collectively from eastern Kentucky, the recording is filled with songs they actually live by. Topics every good Kentuckian knows a thing or two about such as moonshining "Don't Ever Cross a Moonshine Man" and coal mining, "The Roof is Coming Down," pepper the project. Bass player Bryan Russell's "Wicked Woman" will hit home for anyone that has been in a relationship, which they probably should not have been.

The title track pays homage to pickers and grinners from Flatt & Scruggs to Rhonda Vincent and more, in a celebration of "Hillbilly Heroes" that even ends with a short sampling of "Randy Lynn Rag." But perhaps the most personal is "A Day in the Life of the One Left Behind," written by Carroll, and inspired from witnessing friends lose a loved one and the change it causes as they continue on alone.

Tunes written by non-band members compliment those that were, such as "Louisville Rambler" and Del McCoury's "I'm Lonely for My Only." Mandolin and banjo picking from Chaston Carroll and Pack stand out along with Dobro work from guests Gaven Largent and veteran Ron Stewart on fiddle.

"Hillbilly Heroes" is personal, and that is what makes it so special. Each note and word is filled with passion and is evident from the first to the last making it a truly enjoyable and meaningful project.