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Summertown Road

Summertown Road – 2010 (Rounder)

Reviewed by John Lupton

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CDs by Summertown Road

The cover photo of the self-titled debut effort from this Kentucky-based quartet shows them standing in front of a sweet, '50s-vintage wood-paneled station wagon, and if that's meant to suggest their sound is a throwback to the days when bluegrass pioneers like Bill Monroe strapped the bass to the roof and traveled every two-lane back road in the South to make the next gig, it's pretty close to the mark.

That's no surprise, though, considering that these are veteran sidemen whose resumes include names like Ralph Stanley, Lester Flatt, Jim and Jesse, and in the case of banjo player Jack Hicks, an early-'70s stint with Monroe himself. John Rigsby (fiddle) and Bo Isaac (guitar) are both capable lead vocalists, but it's their harmonies (occasionally with Hicks as a trio) that form one of the band's strongest elements, along with Randy Thomas' steady bass.

With all due respect to the Bela Flecks and Alison Browns of the world, though, it's Hicks' "old school" banjo style that really drives this band on tunes like Too Much Of A Good Thing and If I Win. If hard-core Kentucky bluegrass is your thing, Summertown Road is one two-lane blacktop you'll enjoy cruising.