Black Music Matters Festival

The Grascals

The Famous Lefty Flynn's – 2010 (Rounder)

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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From the get go, it's obvious that The Grascals are not a typical bluegrass band. On their fourth disc, they start with a cover of The Monkees' Last Train to Clarksville with Jamie Johnson (not the country singer of the same name by any stretch) on lead vocals. The song is typical of The Grascals, who mix country into their bluegrass. The vocals are on target, and there's a healthy dose of fiddle from Jeremy Abshire and banjo from new member Kristin Scott Benson, who replaced Aaron McDaris, and fits in perfectly. Covering The Monkees is an out of left field play by The Grascals, and it works by putting their own definitive twist on the chestnut.

Johnson shares vocals with Terry Eldredge and Terry Smith, who also handle guitar and upright bass respectively, on the 12-song disc. All acquit themselves well with Johnson having the best chops.

The writing is strong with the title track about a prison breakout that goes bad for one of them anyway, although the band only writes 3 of 12 songs. At least, The Grascals also know how to pick songs fitting their style. They cover Steve Earle's wistful My Old Friend the Blues before bouncing into the lively Up This Hill and Down from the Osborne Brothers (they also play the working class themed the Osbornes' Son of a Sawmill Man) and the Bill Monroe/Hank Williams song I'm Blue, I'm Lonesome, with Hank Jr. prominently featured on vocals and Lloyd Green on steel guitar.

This stellar band is strong on all fronts from multi-threat vocals to the playing as evidenced by the instrumental Blue Rock Slide, from The Grascals' Danny Roberts, Benson and Abshire. Sonically, the song offers a nice contrast to the other 11 songs.

This is a cohesive, well-put together, just like every other disc by The Grascals