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Nightflyer

Flight – 2019 (Pinecastle)

Reviewed by Donald Teplyske

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Nightflyer is a regional Ohio-based band aiming for a higher profile and national audience. The group is comprised of bluegrass journeymen. Perhaps best known is Rick Hayes (mandolin) who played with the Gibson Brothers for a number of years more than a decade ago. Ronnie Stewart (banjo) was a member of Blue & Lonesome, while Richard Propps (guitar) has a southern gospel and bluegrass background. Tim Jackson (Dobro) and Tony Kakaris (bass) have area professional bluegrass backgrounds. Stewart and Propps take the majority of the lead vocals.

"Flight" kicks off with one of four Paula Breedlove co-writes "Ride," a driving song that sets a fine pace for this debut. Mark Brinkman also has three song credits, including the dynamic song of faith "Not Even Dying Can Stop Me now," co-written with Breedlove. Brinkman has a way with 'weepy' songs, and sung by Stewart, "Only God Knows My Name," written with David Adkins, is one of his finest.

Several songs will be familiar to most listeners, although not necessarily within a bluegrass context. The most fully realized of these is Randy Travis' "Send My Body Home on a Freight Train," a cut from "Storms of Life." The instrumentation on this one is notable, with the mandolin and Dobro parts most artfully executed. "A House of Gold," "Guitar Man," and "Satan's Crown Jewel" have been recorded innumerable times, with "Six Days on the Road" also being overdone; crediting Boxcar Willie with having written Earl Green and Carl Montgomery's Dave Dudley classic is a jarring error. But the performances of these songs are enjoyable, and Propps memorably digs deep on "A House of Gold."

Produced by Hayes, "Flight" is a strong start for Nightflyer; keep an eye open for them.