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Split Lip Rayfield

I'll Be Around – 2008 (Pipeline Records)

Reviewed by Jason MacNeil

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CDs by Split Lip Rayfield

The bluegrass-folk band Split Lip Rayfield has been around for 14 years, and this album - the first since the passing of Kirk Rundstrom in February 2007 - does nothing to dissuade listeners that it's run out of innovativeness or chops. Although the opening toe-tapper Rig Or Cross isn't the sort of Ricky Skaggs barnburner some might want, the group keeps it slow but steady pace on the sweet All The Same and the faster but non-frantic Aces High.

With bands such as Canadian group Elliott Brood taking up the mantle, Split Lip Rayfield have little to prove. But they still manage to nail Heart Of Darkness, the softer, swaying It's Been So Long, the bouncy, chipper Factory and especially the hectic, Latin-tinged The High Price Of Necromancy, which brings to mind a folksy, unplugged Barenaked Ladies.

While nothing here jumps out at you, perhaps the one song which stands head and shoulders above the others is the lovely Hobo Love Song which has all mandolin player Wayne Gottstine, banjo player Eric Mardis and bassist Jeff Eaton working on all cylinders. The closing I'll Be Around is also poignant because it's dedicated to Rundstrom, who was a core part of the group.