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Darrell Webb Band

Lover's Leap – 2017 (Mountain Fever)

Reviewed by Donald Teplyske

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CDs by Darrell Webb Band

The first thing you notice when you hold "Lover's Leap" from The Darrell Webb Band is the cover photograph. Unusual for bluegrass, the cover doesn't feature the band nor does it picture a generic illustration of fog-shrouded hills or a lonely country lane.

"Lover's Leap" is a bold, formidable presentation of contemporary bluegrass. Like the tree-topped, rocky edifice pictured alongside a skyscape hinting at trouble on the horizon, the music included features a variety of textures and dimensions.

Having played with the Lonesome River Band, J. D. Crowe & the New South, Rhonda Vincent, Michael Cleveland and Wildfire, it isn't a surprise that Webb's bluegrass palate is a forthright mix of the modern and traditional.

A contemporary group by any definition, the Darrell Webb Band infuse their modern sound with the power and character of traditional bluegrass. While the music may edge toward sophistication, DWB maintains the warmth and personal connection other bands abandon in pursuit of a progressive sound.

"Lost John" serves as the lead track, and sets the tone for "Lover's Leap," a mix of the tragic and the sweet. A handful of original songs mark the way. "Mountain Dan" is a dark tale of Tennessee hill patricide over a tight banjo roll from Cody Hill. While the climax is apparent early, the stellar instrumentation and Webb's matter of fact delivery maintain listeners' interest. The title track has a bluesy quality appropriate to the certainty of its dénouement.

Webb's lead tenor is strong with an everyman quality that is inviting. Members of the touring band appearing on most tracks are Jared Hensley who contributes fines lead and rhythm guitar and Tyler Collins on Dobro. Also featured are former DWB band members Kameron Keller (bass, harmony and lead vocals on "Always on the Move") and Hill.

Sentimentalists will gravitate toward "Daddy's Drinking Shoes," a somewhat innocent Harley Allen/John Wiggins song that may be the strongest track. Rather than fading toward its conclusion, "Lover's Leap" gains momentum. "Diggin'" is another strong Josh Miller song, one that captures the pride of the coalmining life while recognizing its inevitable tragedy. "Forty Acre Blues," a rollicking down-home number, comes from Jeff Barbra and Thomm Jutz, and closes the album with energy and spirit. "Lover's Leap" is a keen and distinctive representation of contemporary bluegrass.