The Grascals 2005 debut was surprisingly powerful, and Me and John and Paul continues to be their most singularly heartfelt recording. Which isn't to suggest that the sextet has failed to meet commercial and artistic standards with subsequent recordings. The Grascals have delivered high-quality songs and albums, at times appealingly frivolous, as on the joyously lighthearted e.p., "Dance Til Your Stocking are Hot and Ravelin'."
As ably as few other bluegrass bands, The Grascals have brought more than a shade of modern country into their music, all the while remaining a contemporary bluegrass force.
Mr. Fix It, It Won't Break My Heart and When Your Rock Turns to Stone are unabashed country songs, with the final of these awash in pedal steel. These performances are strong, but less straight-ahead bluegrass than some would expect even from The Grascals.
More conventionally, Roll On Big Mama is an instrumental powder keg, as is the album's closing Danny Roberts composition Five Miles to Milan. Reaching back to the Osborne Brothers' catalogue for Bluegrass Melodies, The Grascals acknowledge their roots, and this vocally rich song is, for this listener, the album's highpoint. Are You Up For Getting Down Tonight comes a close second, the first song to feature vocals from Kristen Scott Benson.
A sentimental dying spouse song, Silver Strings, ticks that box, while one of three Harley Allen co-writes Two Boys on a Dirt Road contains faded echoes of Me and John and Paul. Lyrically clichéd, the execution of these songs makes them passably enjoyable.
Having established a consistent brand over the past decade, The Grascals don't venture afield on their seventh full-length recording. Pleasant, "When I Get My Pay" sounds pedestrian when compared to previous albums, with individual songs working best in isolation.