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ClayBank

No Escape – 2018 (Mountain Fever)

Reviewed by Fred Frawley

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Bluegrass music is at once tradition-bound and hopeful. It's an odd contradistinction among music genres. And, the yearning forward with tradition ensures that it will endure, within the confines of the form. ClayBank's "No Escape" amply demonstrates this duality.

Traditional in form, ClayBank members are a mixture of seasoned and newer players who embrace the past whilst trying to mold its future. The band ClayBank is named after a street in the Carolina town where the members joined together to jam. After a while, they started on the local festival circuit, gained some recognition and got a deal with Mountain Fever Records, one of the premier keepers of the bluegrass flame these days.

The greybeard of ClayBank is bassist Gary Trivette, who has done time with Southern Accent and Carolina Crossing. He is joined by former Carolina Crossing mate Tyler Thompson, whose banjo work is technically smooth and adept. The hopefulness of the band is provided by two young players, Jacob Greer (guitar) and Zack Arnold (mandolin). The band trades vocal responsibilities on the collection. The younger voices bely their experience, but the overall sound is pleasant.

Daniel Thrailkill's "Bad Weather" teams Trivette and Greer on lead vocals, and it's a nice mix. The title cut, written by The Grascals' Danny Roberts and Adam Haynes, features the younger singers. Most of the selections were written by ClayBank members, and they show promise of being able to carry a full stage show principally with their own material.

But, true to unwritten (if not unbroken) tradition, there's a train song ("Where's A Train When You Need One?"), gospel numbers (Roberts' "Crucified By Me" and the traditional "I'll Wear A White Robe"). Thompson stretches his banjo licks is a fun instrumental ("Shingletown").

In other words, "No Escape" hits all the marks from a talented band that is just now finding its voice. It's hopeful, yet traditional. That's what keeps bluegrass music alive.