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Blue Highway

Original Traditional – 2016 (Rounder)

Reviewed by Kevin Oliver

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CDs by Blue Highway

For more than 20 years now, Blue Highway has combined a love for pure bluegrass sounds with adventurous songwriting from a core trio who are both writers and singers. Add the stellar musicianship they're known for, and it's no wonder they are one of the most original groups in their genre.

The title sums up its combination of traditional sounds with original compositions from Tim Stafford, Wayne Taylor and Shawn Lane. The latter's "Don't Weep For Me" is a worthy addition to the murder ballads canon of folk and traditional music, while banjo player Jason Burleson adds a new instrumental, "Alexander's Run," proving again that they're not just great singers and writers, but also great pickers.

In a group that has been as stable as Blue Highway over the years, any membership change is news, but new Dobro player Gaven Largent appears on a recording with the band for the first time, replacing the award-winning Rob Ickes admirably. Largent's all over these tracks, but most noticeable on the sprightly workout of Stafford's "She Ain't Worth It."

There are certain things we've come to expect from Blue Highway at this point, from Shawn Lane's plaintive singing and songs of faith and redemption to strong clear picking that's not too flashy to strong a capella numbers, the latter of which is represented here by the show stopping shape-note style "Hallelujah." By reaching back to their traditional roots through a slate of excellent new songs, Blue Highway delivers yet again.