Longevity is not a trait commonly associated with bands in most music genres, bluegrass included. Although individual artists enjoy long careers in bluegrass, bands rarely stand the test of time. So when a group celebrates its 30th anniversary, you know it is doing something very right. Such is the case with Dry Branch Fire Squad, which entered it third decade back in 2006.
Recognized for its ability to interpret songs from a broad range of sources, Dry Branch Fire Squad shows it hasn't lost a step over the years on the group's first all new studio recording since 2001.
While Ron Thomason's rustic yet soulful vocal style shines throughout, the real star is the ensemble musicianship of Thomason (mandolin, clawhammer banjo and guitar), Brian Aldridge (guitar and mandolin), Tom Boyd (banjo and Dobro) and Dan Russell (bass and banjo) - the longest-running incarnation of DBFS.
As with most Dry Branch recordings, the music is culled from a diverse set of musical sources - ranging from a spirited take on The Carter Family's Little Joe to a twanged out version of the Sam Cooke soul classic Bring It On Home to Me, featuring Michael Cleveland on fiddle. Other notable songs include Thomason's haunting clawhammer banjo and vocal rendition of O Captain! My Captain, a song by Joe Wolking and based on a Walt Whitman poem, and Power in the Blood, a rousing a cappella gospel quartet piece.
"Echoes of the Mountains" proves to be a fine example of what Dry Branch Fire Squad does best - giving a new voice to songs from both the ancient and not-too-distant past. In a time when Americans are focused on change, there's a certain amount of comfort in knowing that some things will always stay the same.