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Blue Highway

Sounds of Home – 2011 (Rounder)

Reviewed by Andrew Greenhalgh

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CDs by Blue Highway

There's no better title that Blue Highway could've chosen for their first collection of original material in more than 10 years than "Sounds of Home." This recording finds the band notching year 17 on their belts and sounding as fresh, polished and powerful as ever, offering up 12 tracks of compelling listening. With each member standing among the best on their instruments of choice, the playing is bound to be flawless (Tim Stafford, guitar, vocals; Wayne Taylor - bass, vocals, Shawn Lane - mandolin, guitar, fiddle, vocals, Rob Ickes - Dobro; Jason Burleson - banjo). Yet, Blue Highway does more than just offer up great playing; they put great heart into this album as well.

Songs like the title track set the tone with an easygoing vibe and heartsick lyric that play into the record's feel perfectly while songs like Restless Working Man, with its frenetic playing and blue collar lyric, capture one pointed segment of life. Stormand Only Seventeen capture elements of heartache and loss that contrast with the lyrical take on Heather and Billy, a bittersweet tale with subtle acoustic poignance. Of course, adding to that poignance are songs like Nobody's Fault But Mine and Drinking From a Deeper Well, which tap into the spiritual roots of the music and of these fine musicians.

Collectively, these songs all speak to the core of country home life. Spanning topics from working life, relationships, and man's interaction with God, Blue Highway neatly encapsulates the bluegrass experience in song. And not only are the lyrical offerings solid, the playing stands up against the best. Staying true to bluegrass tradition, the band continues to weave a contemporary vibe, a la Alison Krauss and Union Station, into the album, which is a must-listen for diehard bluegrass lovers.