Wildwood Valley Boys

Back Country Road

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By the time one has listened to the first few songs on Back Country Road, he or she will be aware of two dominating factors: the band's fine harmony, and a romantic glance toward simpler, rural lifestyles. Lead singer Tony Holt gets things started with "The Long Valley," a fun, up-tempo piece that finds a young man, tired of his rambling ways, wishing to return to familiar faces and places. Holt's originals mix well with the other material, the most familiar being Lefty Frizzell's "Mom and Dad's Waltz" and John Prine's "Paradise." While most of the songs are short, allowing little room for picking, the instrumental "Paul's Ride" gives banjoist Wes Vanderpool, mandolinist Davis Long, and bassist Kevin Kehrberg a chance to let their hair down. One might ponder the inclusion of a piece like "Black Dust Fever," a song about black lung disease. While working-class woes have long been the realm of country music, fewer bluegrass players actually come from coal mining backgrounds in 2002. Without this background, songs about working in the mines seem like little more than a romantic glance to the hard times of the past. In fact, one might get the idea from listening to Back Country Road that the players would like nothing better than to live in a cabin with no electricity on a faraway mountainside. Luckily for listeners, the Wildwood Valley Boys traveled (probably by car) to a modern recording studio where they recorded Back Country Road. Bluegrass fans, traditionalists, and romantics will want to pick up a copy.

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