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Jeff Scroggins and Colorado

Ramblin Feels Good – 2016 ( Self-released)

Reviewed by Donald Teplyske

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CDs by Jeff Scroggins and Colorado

Touring stalwarts Jeff Scroggins & Colorado return with their third album with Scroggins on 5-string banjo and touring band members Greg Blake (lead vocals and guitar) and Tristan Scroggins (mandolin). They are augmented by studio vets Mark Schatz (bass) and Andy Leftwich (fiddle) along with harmony vocals from Don Rigsby and David Peterson.

Scroggins, a well-established Colorado-based performer and instructor, is an impressive musician, one who can hold his own with the best in bluegrass. Bringing to mind Mac Wiseman, Blake is an expressive, easy-going vocalist more than capable of fronting a national-touring outfit, and the younger Scroggins reveals excellent timing throughout, stepping to the fore on numerous occasions while also providing excellent fills and rhythm.

Relying on outside writers is not a fatal flaw for bluegrass bands. Colorado's chosen material comes from the country ("I'm A Memory," Willie Nelson,) bluegrass (Reno & Smiley's "Wall Around Your Heart") and folk (via an excellent interpretation of Gordon Lightfoot's "Carefree Highway") songbooks. Still, one would appreciate additional original material outside the two instrumentals, the Senior Scroggins' "Dismal Nitch" and the Junior's fiddle-and mandolin-rich "Lemonade in the Shade."

Without a weak song in the bunch, "Love Please Come Home" and "Down the Road of Life" stand out as vocal showcases for Blake while also showcasing the ensemble's instrumental abilities. The title track, a train-riding song by Alaskan-Hawaiian Rion Schmidt, also deserves attention.

With flashes of greatness, "Ramblin Feels Good" is an above-average bluegrass release from a group that has quietly established a reputation as one of the more satisfying bands working the bluegrass circuit.