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Lonesome River Band

No Turning Back – 2008 (Rural Rhythm)

Reviewed by John Lupton

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CDs by Lonesome River Band

From their beginnings a quarter-century ago, the Lonesome River Band has been at the forefront of contemporary bluegrass as a band deftly able to mix the old and the new and were credited by many in the mid-'90s as being among the first to bring a "rock and roll attitude" to the genre with a "wall of sound" approach that attracted a young cult following. Banjo player Sammy Shelor, with the band since at least 1991, is the closest thing to an original member in the current lineup that includes veterans Andy Ball (mandolin), Mike Anglin (bass), Brandon Rickman (guitar) and the estimable Mike Hartgrove (fiddle), a stalwart in Doyle Lawson's band (twice) and a founding member of IIIrd Tyme Out.

What's intriguing here is that, despite what the title implies, it's more of a throwback to the '80s sound when the band was anchored by the likes of Dan Tyminski and Tim Austin. Where the LRB of the '90s relied heavily on the lead vocals of Ronnie Bowman, this crew takes an approach more along the lines of a Blue Highway, where all but Hartgrove share the leads, and the three- and four-part harmonies make for a primer in teamwork. They're especially good on cuts like Larry Cordle's Wires and Wood and We Couldn't Tell, one of four co-written by Rickman. Vocally and instrumentally, LRB remains one of the strongest bands around.