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Deeper Shade of Blue

Steam – 2018 (Mountain Fever)

Reviewed by Devin Adams

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CDs by Deeper Shade of Blue

Hailing from North Carolina, the boys of Deeper Shade of Blue are no rookies to the bluegrass scene. Having been together for over 15 years, they have self-released several projects since their inception, but "STEAM" is their label debut. Tight harmonies and solid musicianship mark the album.

Of the 12 tracks, the band had a hand in writing 8 of them including the title track, which shares a clever idiom about a man who might talk a big game, but cannot deliver on his boast. Guitar picker and vocalist Troy Pope quips that, "He had enough steam to blow the whistle, but not enough to pull the train."

"Pearly Gates" written by bass man Scott Burgess is the first of several gospel numbers. It is a fiery compliment to long time standards such as "I Just Steal Away and Pray" and "How Great Thou Art," where Pope and Jason Fraley (mandolin) provide beautiful lonesome harmonies to Burgess' heartfelt vocals.

Each song is well crafted and show great diversity, whether it's the haunting "Kentucky Slave House," inspired by a true story about defiant slaves and a cruel slave owner, or "Hook It," an upbeat instrumental tribute to Larry Rice. To close, no bluegrass project would be complete without a tune all about one of the forefathers of bluegrass. Dobro man Frank Poindexter pays tribute to his hero the late, great Dobro bluesman "Uncle" Josh Graves with a song simply titled, "Uncle Josh the Dobro King." Here, Poindexter is heard playing in the style of Graves so perfectly that the two would be indistinguishable to the uninformed.

Deeper Shade of Blue's long history together has given them a wealth of experience and shaped them well for a successful debut. Solid songwriting and musicianship, as well as vocal harmony and diversity prove that these bluegrass boys definitely have enough "STEAM" to pull the train a long, long way.