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Overmountain Men

The Next Best Thing – 2013 (Ramseur)

Reviewed by Brian Baker

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CDs by Overmountain Men

The Overmountain Men's 2010 debut, "Glorious Day," earned a good deal of effusive praise, but was just as often flagged for trying to cover too many musical bases, from bluegrass to folk to gospel to Skynyrd-tinged country. It's a petty criticism; the band is an eclectic side project, comprised of Avett Brothers bassist Bob Crawford, Modern Don Juans guitarist/long-time North Carolina roots rocker David Childers, his son Robert Childers on drums and guitarist Randy Saxon, and the group's diverse composition and somewhat ephemeral existence blurs the hard line between genres, allowing them the freedom to experiment.

Additionally, the Overmountain Men are inspired by history (their name is taken from an actual group of Revolutionary War freedom fighters directly related to the Childers and Saxon), and their musical translation of that inspiration is as messy, far-reaching and reservedly successful as the subject itself.

That trend continues on the Overmountain Men's sophomore album, "The Next Best Thing," as the core quartet and a handful of friends concoct a similarly broad expression of their musical experience and historical passion.

The rootsy rock volume of Grackles sits nicely between the lilting waltz of Smoke and Mirrors and the twangy piano pop of Alexander Hamilton, exemplifying the group's wonderfully ramshackle approach and refusal to adhere to genre constraints. As on their debut, the Overmountain Men split their songwriting focus between real historical subjects (Alexander Hamilton, Halls of Glory, To the Warmer Lands), the social/political ramifications of history (the soulfully bluesy title track) and the universal experience of interpersonal relationships (All Out of Diamonds, the swingy Hard Loving You, Twilight Road). Like a beautiful crazy quilt, the charm of the "The Next Big Thing" lies in the Overmountain Men's gift for making magic from irregular, but highly effective bits and pieces.