Chris Jones

Live at the Old Feed Store – 2014 (GSM)

Reviewed by Donald Teplyske

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What is a band to do between studio recordings? If you are Chris Jones & the Nightdrivers, you return to a comfortable haunt-in this case, The Old Feed Store in Cobden, Ill., and just let the (digital) tape roll. You include audience favorites - mandolinist Mark Stoffel's rendition of "Edelweiss," paired with "Forked Deer" and banjoist Ned Luberecki's 'perfect bluegrass song' "Cabin of Death" - and some songs recorded long ago - "I'm Ready if You're Willin'" from 1999's "Follow Your Heart," for instance.

Mix in a song that many missed the first time around, the sentimental Civil War piece "Battle of the Bands," a George Jones song "I Cried Myself Awake" and keep the bass player happy by ensuring he gets another cut (not that Jon Weisberger really needs one, as he is one of bluegrass' most recorded songwriters) with the forlorn "Lonely Town," and chances are folks coming to the shows will want to pick up the live set.

With a stable lineup, Chris Jones & the Nightdrivers is one of bluegrass' most consistent groups. As front man, Jones has as identifiable and smooth vocal delivery as is found within the genre. His guitar playing is a delight. There is no questioning the musical aptitude of his band mates. Give a listen to Stoffel's break on "Then I Close My Eyes," a Jones composition from their previous release "Lonely Comes Easy," or Weisberger's and Luberecki's contributions to the instrumental "Emergency Pulloff," and you have evidence of their instrumental mastery.

The songs selections are top shelf. Kicking off with the venerable "Bound to Ride," mixing in some sweet gospel on "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms," showing their lighter side on "Cabin of Death," and picking a winner from Tom T. and Dixie Hall in "One Door Away," the quality is apparent.

No bluegrass fan will be disappointed in the music this lively, talented lineup presented on this excellently recorded album.