Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver / Doyle Lawson

Lonely Street

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It's been 30 years since singer and mandolinist Doyle Lawson first put together a group of hot young bluegrass talents and called it Quicksilver. The band has gone through countless permutations, but two things have remained constant: a startlingly strong balance between vocal and instrumental chops, and an ensemble harmony sound that is jaw-dropping in its perfect intonation and creamy sweetness. As usual, everyone sounds great on this album, but lead vocalist Darren Beachley is especially strong, and the mixed program of gospel and secular tunes shows off his voice very nicely. Some of these songs are a little bit surprising: you don't necessarily expect to hear messages of environmentalism and social justice in bluegrass music, but "The Human Race" expounds powerfully on both subjects; you also don't expect a romantic happy ending in a bluegrass song (messy death and prison followed by hanging are the more common tropes), but "Johnny and Sally" presents a hillbilly version of the Romeo and Juliet story in which everything turns out fine in the end. It shouldn't be surprising that the album's finest track is a gorgeous gospel number titled "When the Last of Our Days Shall Come," but another of the album's best moments is actually an instrumental, "Down Around Bear Cove," which sounds a bit like "Grandfather's Clock" and prominently features resonator guitarist Josh Swift. Lawson has never made a bad album, and if this one doesn't stand head and shoulders above the rest of his catalog it's only because his work has always been so consistently good.

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