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Big Country Bluegrass

Country Livin' – 2015 (Rebel)

Reviewed by Fred Smith

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CDs by Big Country Bluegrass

Big Country Bluegrass' new release poses a metaphysical question: Does the world really need another straight-ahead, high-lonesome compilation of country-flavored bluegrass songs? Probably not. With all the texture and depth of modern bluegrass, even as performed by longstanding artists, there's not much of an audience for a band that is covering (literally and figuratively) old ground.

"Country Livin'" represents Big Country Bluegrass' 18th recording. Once on offer at the merch table, this CD will pay for a lot of the band's gas between gigs, but there's little to set Big Country Bluegrass from the pack in this offering. Tommy Sells, mandolinist, fronts the band and provides solid lead vocals in the high-tenor style. The songs come from other songwriters, including two from Tom T. Hall and his late wife, Dixie. BCB creditably tackles "The Bluefield West Virginia Blues" and "The Hound Dog From Harlan" (the latter even includes a Tom T. Hall "let's talk rather than sing" verse).

There's a Jimmy Martin/Bobby Osborne tune, "My Lonely Heart" to close out the release. BCB's lineup even includes Martin cohort Lynwood Lunsford on banjo (he also sat in with Lost and Found for five years). It's best just to call up the original on You Tube.

The treacly gospel side of bluegrass is represented by Brother Herbert Gibson's "Hold Me Closer, Jesus" and "Snow White Grave" ("I'm searching for the foot prints of the one that I loved so"), credited to Ray Duke and Mariah Turner.

Big Country Bluegrass mix it up with some uptempo numbers ("Easy Memories" and "Blue River" and slower mountain music ("The Cotton Mill Song"), but the result is derivative work without much personality.