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Dry Branch Fire Squad

Live at the Newburyport Firehouse – 2005 (Rounder)

Reviewed by Larry Stephens

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CDs by Dry Branch Fire Squad

Dry Branch Fire Squad (DBFS to fans) is as well known for founder Ron Thomason's humor as the music. This two-disc set provides plenty of both. Recorded live, it provides an interlude of wit between each song. Thomason is folksy and funny and can be reflective ("Green Pastures and Equine Dignity"). They include some old time music in this set, but you'll see a number of tunes familiar in bluegrass, such as "Shine, Hallelujah, Shine" and "Roanoke."

He provides some interesting insights in his ramblings, such as the story behind "Jesus On The Mainline" (which he penned) and takes some digs at old time music, but it's clear they enjoy touching on the genre. He picked some touching numbers for their performance, such as "He's Coming To Us Dead," so reminiscent of today's losses in Iraq and Afghanistan. Several songs are of recent vintage, but have an old-time feel.

On "Orphan Child" (written by Gillian Welch but sounding much older), they follow an old formula for old time music by bowing the upright bass, something you don't often hear in the bluegrass genre. Their harmonies are good but not as tight as, say, IIIrd Tyme Out. Thomason, who does most of the lead singing, isn't the most polished singer you'll hear but the overall package with some fine instrumental work makes good listening. Combine this with Thomason's commentaries on life, and you have a good show on the two CDs.