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Blue Highway

Wind To The West – 1996 (Rebel)

Reviewed by Jon Weisberger

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CDs by Blue Highway

Blue Highway won 1996's International Bluegrass Music Association Emerging Artist award, and this album, their sophomore effort, shows why; the band has strong instrumental chops, outstanding vocals and a keen ear for material, and this gives ample play to every one of the band's strengths.

Neither hidebound traditionalism nor "newgrass" modernism, the album presents a well-balanced program ranging from a pair of soulful traditional gospel songs to hard luck laments like Aubrey Holt's "Good Time Blues" and Mark Mathewson's "I Let A Good Woman Go," as well as a half-dozen originals by one or more band members.

Country fans will especially enjoy "I Can Stand The Truth," with Shawn Lane's heartbreaking lead singing nicely backed by ensemble work, including tasteful but radio-friendly drums.

At a time when many listeners are looking for something more distinctive than cookie-cutter tunes by sound-alike singers, Blue Highway has a lot more to offer than yet another collection of bluegrass standards. Fans of great singing, outstanding musicianship and songs about real life will find a lot to appreciate.