Ernie Thacker & Route 23 are a new band. If Thacker's name sounds familiar,it may be due to his playing on Stanley Tradition albums or being a member for six years as the lead singer for Ralph Stanley's Clinch Mountain Boys. However, if you're expecting a bluegrass album dyed in the strictest tradition due to these associations, you couldn't be farther from the truth. Thacker has assembled a top-Mullins on banjo and kid-brother Matt Thacker on bass. Guesting on fiddle is Ricky Simpkins, one of bluegrass' finest, and an additional nuance comes from the harmony vocals of Thacker's sister D.D.
The recording takes it's name from the Keith Whitley song which is performed here. As over-used as Whitley comparisons can be, especially in Stanley country, Thacker has a definite, pure similarity which comes not from an attempt to copy, but more likely from his time spent with Whitley's progenitor, Ralph Stanley. In short- the guy can sing, and he's no stranger to bluegrass.
Among the finest tracks are Jerry Williamson's "Wild Horses," Junior Sisk's "Whiskey And Women," D.D. Thacker's "Too Late For Lovin'" and Shannon Slaughter's "Lonely And Blue," the latter of which can easily be confused at first listen for the great Lonesome River Band. The balance is equally fine, making for an excellent flow of songs, played with conviction and drive. (Crosscut, 2978 N. Main St., #101, Hazard, KY 41701)