It's not unusual to see talented youngsters on bluegrass stages and Garrett Newton stands there with the best of them. He's received welcome advice from banjo masters Kenny Ingram, Steve Dilling and Ben Greene. Thanks to Lorraine Jordan, he makes regular appearances on her shows where Greene fills the banjo slot for her band. His band started as a jam band to give him playing experience and found their popularity growing as they play at Jordan's coffee house.
The band includes Newton as banjoist and Jordan playing bass (in band appearances; ace bass player Jason Moore plays on the CD) and singing tenor. The lead singer is Allen Dyer, who sings lead in the baritone range and easily holds the listener's attention with his good voice. He does an excellent job on "County Poor and Country Proud," joined by Jordan and mandolin player Daniel Aldridge singing baritone on the harmony parts. This makes a very good bluegrass song as does "Sing a Bluegrass Song," a fast-moving number with more good harmony. This is a good showcase for Newton's banjo, featuring a strong, percussive attack as he plays Scruggs' rolls on the five-string. Helping out on fiddle is another great banjo player and fiddler, Ron Stewart. The band's instrumental strength comes through on numbers like "Remington Ride" (with Parks Icenhour playing lead guitar), "Farewell Blues" and "Bells of Saint Mary." Some good choices were made to showcase the talent in the band because bluegrass isn't all breakneck speed and overdrive. Their playing shows taste and ability.
The title song (Brink Brinkman) could have been written about Newton, a young man interested in the tradition of bluegrass. The familiar "I Ain't Broke (But I'm Badly Bent)," the great Country Gentlemen hit "Redwood Hill" and an interesting Jordan composition, "Last Hanging of Wise County," which is based on a true story, are also included. Bluegrass is about the combination of excellent musicianship on traditional instruments combined with songs that usually tell a story of life.
It's too soon to tell if Newton will make a lasting imprint on bluegrass music, but this CD is a good start.