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One Riot One Ranger

Side Tracks – 1998 (Hayden's Ferry)

Reviewed by Brian Baker

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CDs by One Riot One Ranger

There is no more unlikely bluegrass aggregation than the Columbus, Ohio quintet of One Riot One Ranger. It's not just the breadth of styles (country, cowboy, folk, bluegrass) that they encompass in their sound that sets them apart from their purer counterparts.

1R1R blends a quartet of classically trained bluegrass and country players with one of alt.-country most acclaimed Midwestern shoulda-beens in the person of Mark Wyatt, formerly with the late '80's punky country outfit Great Plains. When the notorious critics' darlings called it a day, Wyatt hooked up with folklorist Jack Shortlidge, who connected Wyatt to the future Rangers. Their first album together, 1996's "Faces Made for Radio," showed their range, with chestnuts like "Tennessee Coot" and wicked weird cover choices like art damage pioneers Pere Ubu's "Cloud 149." The following year saw 1R1R contribute their take on the Delmore Brothers' "Southern Moon" to the sterling tribute "Straight Outta Boone County."

Now comes an album continuing 1R1R's penchant for traditional yet twisted bluegrass. They haul out an old Great Plains number ("Long and Slow Decline") as well as a ripping cool arrangement of CCR's "Who'll Stop the Rain?" For originals, 1R1R offers a stacked deck of songwriting talent, with country nuggets ("Do You Dream About Me?," "I Think I'll Fall in Love"), traditional bluegrass ("It Must Be Heaven," "Goodbye to Galax") and folkier blends ("Sunset Girl," "Rain Fallin'"). One Riot One Ranger may confuse purists with their odd core sample of related styles, but the open minded will find these guys pretty close to every style they trot out.