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Jimmy Bowen & Santa Fe

Chain Gang – 1999 (Copper Creek)

Reviewed by Mark "Brink" Brinkman

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CDs by Jimmy Bowen & Santa Fe

The "high lonesome" sound is one of the main ingredients in bluegrass music. Jimmy Bowen certainly brings the "high" element to the bluegrass table on this project. Folks may be familiar with him through his work with Continental Divide. This is his debut with his group Santa Fe.

The project straddles the fence with several cuts like the Lightfoot tune "Early Morning Rain" and "What's a Memory Like You" leaning to the progressive side of bluegrass while others, such as the driving "Her Memories Bound to Ride" and "Chain Gang," pull directly from the roots of bluegrass. Santa Fe relies on solid banjo picking by Gary Reece, the guitar of Daniel Edmonds and John Pennell on acoustic bass. Combined with Bowen on mandolin, they form extremely solid instrumental base. Fiddler extraordinaire Ronnie Stewart adds his wonderful talent to fill out the sound.

The songs are well chosen from proven songwriters such as Randal Hylton, Harley Allan, and Jim Eanes. In addition, Pennell offers "I Wonder" and "Right On Time." This is a very nice first release.