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Breaking Grass

Warning Signs – 2017 (Mountain Fever)

Reviewed by Larry Stephens

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CDs by Breaking Grass

For many bluegrass fans banjo is the centerpiece of the music. Breaking Grass' Jody Elmore falls in line with the great tradition of bluegrass banjo players, providing a clean, percussive attack on his rolls. "Cold Rain" may not speak to mountains and mama, but it's good bluegrass from the Mississippi band. Guitar player Cody Farrar composed all the songs and sometimes using only songs from a band member is less than a blessing because the band loses objectivity when picking their music. Farrar has done a good job with these songs and brings variety to the band on its fourth album. If you have a tight definition of what bluesgrass is to you, be warned. There's good bluegrass here, like "The One She Adored," a song of bitter love with banjo and an excellent mandolin break from Zach Wooten. "If I can't have you I'll kill the one you want," the song goes - just another day of murder because of love in the bluegrass world.

But there are also tracks like "House of Cards." It has a nice interplay of instruments, excellent lyrics that tell a story and, yes, some banjo but it's definitely more blue than 'grass. There's a more modern sound that still retains a bluegrass feel in "Short Shorts." Tyler White plays fills on the fiddle while Farrar sings the tale of a woman unhappy with her partying husband. She's not out to cheat (maybe), but the madder she gets the shorter she cuts her shorts. You can picture James King smiling at the message even if he would never sing it. Another excellent bluegrass number is "Sweet Ava" with an interplay of fiddle, banjo and mandolin and a story of accidental death because of love.

They venture close to country with "Taking and Giving." Once again there are love problems, leading with a great line: "Let me just say you're my favorite regret, even though you're not a memory, yet." Change instrumentation, and this could be on CMT with catchy lyrics and memorable tune. And, speaking of country, Farrar mixes country and blues in "Waking Up With You." It's not hard to imagine Patsy Cline singing this as you listen.

This is a CD with variety, wandering around bluegrass but never turning it's back on it. When you get to the last track you're ready to hit the buttons to start all over again. That's the mark of a winner.