If your bluegrass collection includes discs by IIIrd Tyme Out, Cherryholmes, Mountain Heart and/or James King - or if you've seen any of them perform live - then chances are pretty good that you've come across at least one of the founding trio of bluegrass veterans at the core of Sideline: Steve Dilling (banjo), Skip Cherryholmes (lead guitar) and Jason Moore (bass). The band's name is a wry nod to the fact that it all started as a way to fill time when they weren't working for someone else and grew into a full-time gig.
For this fourth release (their debut on Mountain Home, following three well-received efforts on Mountain Fever), the band is rounded out with Nathan Aldridge (fiddle), Troy Boone (mandolin) and Bailey Coe (guitar). All six contribute vocals in various configurations, and while they're all more than solid instrumentally, it's the variety and consistency of their three- and four-part harmonies that's perhaps their strong suit.
The dozen tracks here also vary nicely in mood and tempo, from driving up-tempo tunes like "Something Out of Nothing" through the haunting outlaw ballad "Lysander Hayes" to a warm and mellow treatment of Gordon Lightfoot's "Song for a Winter's Night" that echoes nicely of Lightfoot's original. The variety extends to the subject matter as well - nostalgia ("Frozen In Time"), the gal waiting at home ("Bluefield WV Mtn. Girl" - yes, the abbreviations are part of the title), the heartache of parting ("Memories That We Shared") and a pair of gospel tunes ("Satan's Chains," "I Long to See His Face"). The production and arrangements are all thoroughly professional, but then, this is a band with a lot of collective years of professional bluegrass under their belts.