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Open Road

In The Life – 2004 (Rounder)

Reviewed by John Lupton

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CDs by Open Road

After seemingly coming out of nowhere with their 2002 debut "Cold Wind," the pressure was on the young upstarts of Colorado-based Open Road to squarely face the challenge of producing a follow-up that not only matches, but builds on the reputation garnered from that first disc as a young band deeply rooted in traditional bluegrass, yet bursting with their own new approach and style. The new one should not disappoint any of their faithful and will likely convince more than a few of the skeptics.

The band features three new members (Bobby Britt, fiddle; Keith Reed, banjo and Eric Thorin, bass), and their contributions are notable, but the band's heart and soul continue to be founders Caleb Roberts (mandolin) and Bradford Lee Folk (guitar, lead vocals). Folk's idiosyncratic vocals, in particular, capture a variety of moods on material drawn from sources as diverse as the Louvin Brothers, George Jones and Harlan Howard, but he's at his best on his own songs like the perversely wry break-up song "I'm Not Perfect" and the haunting morality play "Sinkin' Man." "In The Life" is a pretty strong message that these guys intend to stick around a while.