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Old Salt Union

Where the Dogs Don't Bite – 2019 (Compass)

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

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CDs by Old Salt Union

Old Salt Union typify the fact that today's heartland music is as far removed from your daddy's bluegrass as cowpony is from classic country. Still, in each of these instances, there are essential elements that remain in the mix - specifically, an independent attitude that opens the doors to independence and exuberance.

Old Salt Union typify that unrepentant approach, and while they celebrate certain strains of vintage Americana, their determination to create their own individual imprint is obvious throughout their stellar new offering "Where the Dogs Don't Bite."

To some, the title may seem a misnomer, especially given the fact that this five piece finds a potent combination of exuberant melodies stirred with an arched overdrive and decided determination to help underscore their populist appeal. Wisely then, producer and Compass Records head Alison Brown finds the means to focus their intents and help create an album that ought to please the purists, that is, those that favor a traditional template as well as more progressive pursuits.

At their essence, Old Salt Union is a highly-tuned bluegrass band, one that makes good use of the standard regalia - mandolin, banjo, fiddle and so forth - particularly on songs such as "Tell Me So,""Ebb & Flow" and "Heartbroke & Lonesome." Yet at the same time, they're also keen on making the most of clear, coherent melodies capable of garnishing wider appeal. Likewise, other elements enter the mix as well, with hints of jam band and alternative indie rock often lurking just below the surface. Happily though, all those intriguing additives underscore the interest, rather than detracting from their delivery.

After four previous outings - three independent offerings and their 2017 eponymous effort for Compass - Old Salt Union has solidified their standing as exceptional representatives of today's newgrass elite. Pardon the pun, but one could well consider Old Salt Union peppered with promise.

Lee Zimmerman is a freelance writer and author based in Maryville, Tenn. He also expounds on music on his web site, Stories Beyond the Music - Americana Music Reviews, Interviews & Articles. His book, Americana Music - Voices, Visionaries and Pioneers of an Honest Sound - is available from Texas A&M University Publishing.