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Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice

The Story of the Day That I Died – 2013 (Rebel)

Reviewed by Kevin Oliver

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CDs by Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice

Traditional bluegrass singers don't get much better than Junior Sisk, through his tenure both with BlueRidge and his own Ramblers Choice. Smoother than Del McCoury, more homespun than Larry Sparks, Sisk has an honest, forthright style that's free of pretense or preening; he's more of a storyteller than a singer or entertainer.

It's appropriate, then, that the title track from this new album is a story song. A farcical tale of a man going through a divorce trying to keep the ex from getting his money, it's set to a classic upbeat bluegrass tempo that gives the Ramblers Choice players room to stretch.

The tales continue with If the Bottle Was A Bible, a country lament in a Chris Jones style (but co-written by Ronnie Bowman) that imagines what might have been if the time spent in a bar had been spent 'in revival' instead. The religious themes so integral to traditional bluegrass pop up again on Prayers Go Up, which takes the well-worn "Prayers go up, blessings come down" saying and works it into a gently swaying tune about being happy and content.

Sisk isn't all goodness, mercy, and mirth, however; there are as many nods to unfaithfulness and discord as on a classic country album, from High in the Mountains to the unfortunate chorus of Old Bicycle Chain, which relates a desire to beat one's significant other with the titular piece of hardware. It may be in jest, but given the serious issues surrounding domestic violence it is a jarring and inappropriate 'joke' at best.

Sisk and his band aren't joking when it comes to their rock solid musicianship, however, with every tune containing multiple 'oh yeah' moments where the banjo or the fiddles take front and center with authority and flair. They aren't flashy or newgrassy but Ramblers Choice know how to play a classic bluegrass style that should never go out of style.