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Breakaway

Watershed – 1997 (Signature Sounds)

Reviewed by Jon Weisberger

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CDs by Breakaway

The second album from Vermont's Breakaway, a bluegrass band working the New England festival circuit for most of the 1990's, is a fine showcase of material divided almost evenly between originals and covers.

Lead vocals are spread among the three songwriters - Andy Greene (guitar), Andy Sacher (mandolin) and bassist Peter Riley - while banjoist Scott Hopkins (composer of the crackling instrumental "Leadfoot") and fiddler Gene White, Jr. more than carry their weight in the solos. Junior Barber, of upstate New York's Gibson Brothers band, guests on resophonic guitar.

The material and arrangements lean toward a folk- and Celtic-influenced sound, but with a sharp, more traditional edge provided especially by Greene's driving rhythm. Originals and covers are nicely intermingled, with songs from The O'Kanes and the Desert Rose Band sounding as though they were written with the band in mind. Though two Stanley Brothers numbers are included, the arrangements have more in common with the rest of Breakaway's material than with the original versions.

Breakaway's flexible sound, produced by Tim Austin, will appeal to a lot of fans, especially those with a taste for polished, folk-oriented bluegrass retaining the drive and emotion of the genre's roots. (Available from 800-694-5354)