Volume 5's title track is a fast-moving song that fits the modern bluegrass mold, not exacly like a song you would have expected from Mr. Monroe, but it does tell a story. He's a drifter, here today, gone tomorrow, love him at your own risk. Glen Harrell, lead vocalist and fiddle player, has a powerful, clear voice (no strong inflections) on the high end of the lead range - just right for the high, lonesome sound if you sing below tenor (Vince Gill, Larry Stephenson). He's very good on the fiddle, too.
They pay homage to bluegrass history with "Tall Pines," a song recorded by many groups. This cut features Harrell's fiddle and banjo by Patton Wages, a Scruggs-style banjoist with a strong percussive attack on the strings. He's one of the group's harmony singers, and this song is a good example of their tight-knit harmonies. Wages and Harrell both spent time with Marty Raybon. Harry Clark does a mandolin kickoff on "Molly Dear," a love song built on sadness. The song is the tale of a man who fell in love with a girl (Molly) who ran off and broke his heart. He tells his tale from the perspective of 60 years of never forgetting her. That's a lot of sadness in one song. "With My Gun" touches on another staple of bluegrass music: a man, a gun and some violence.
The musicianship is at the expected high level of excellence, and they sing harmony beautifully. Jeff Partin makes a guest appearance playing Dobro and credited with upright bass though band member Chris Williamson is credited on the "Scarecrow" track and guest Aaron Ramsey (Mountain Heart) is credited on all the others. "Scarecrow" has some interesting twists, the story of life and duty through the eyes of a scarecrow hanging in the field, always on duty, always faithful. Partin, a former V5 bandmate now with Mountain Heart, composed "Lonely Wind," a song so sad that you can't help but share the pain with the man who is "run down and empty inside, hollowed wood ..." You'll hear Partin's Dobro scattered all over this track. Guitarist Colby Laney also provided "Lucky Seven," a high speed instrumental that allows all the musicians to display their abundant talents, and "Alaskan Gold," a hard-driving song about scrabbling for gold and the hard and dangerous life that went with it in the cold mountains of Alaska. This is another track with breaks by all the instrumentalists, one of the great things about bluegrass compared to the sound byte breaks in today's country music.
And what would bluegrass do without a faithless spouse, a gun and then "95 Years" with a ball and chain? The band puts the blues in bluegrass with a Levon Helm hit, "When I Go Away." They nail the bluesy riff, proving bluegrass can encompass multiple genre and still keep the fans happy. This is a topnotch band, and they have produced another excellent CD.