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Dry Branch Fire Squad

Hand Hewn – 2001 (Rounder)

Reviewed by Jonathan Colcord

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CDs by Dry Branch Fire Squad

A primarily secular bluegrass release this time around, Dry Branch Fire Squad's 12th recording for Rounder is mostly comprised of traditional songs. Dry Branch also including numbers by Hazel Dickens, Aubrey Holt and Ralph Stanley. The recording offers a wide variety and possesses a great, driving sound. The band includes Ron Thomason on mandolin and guitar, Bobby Maynard on banjo and fiddle, Suzanne Thomas on guitar and banjo, Mary Jo Leet on vocals, Charlie Leet on bass, Brian Aldridge on guitar and guest Dickens with vocals on her own "Black Lung."

Highlights include a Thomason mandolin instrumental, "Nazeer, Nazeer," which echoes Bill Monroe's best later instrumental works, and Stanley's "Two Coats," played here in an unusually up-tempo rendition. Also worth mention is a version of "Angelina Baker" with lyrics by Stephen Foster, and Dry Branch's noted style on all numbers including a cappella singing, some gospel and even Thomason's "ham bone" routine on one track. Old fans will embrace this recording, as will fans of bluegrass and Old Time music discovering this band for the first time. Highly recommended.