Ron Spears

Carolina Rain

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It's always a bit strange to listen to traditional musicians tackle contemporary themes. In the case of contemporary country (from the '90s on), this was balanced by an updating of musical approaches. In bluegrass bands like Ron Spears and Within Tradition, however, the players have held on to traditional musical structures, conjuring up Bill Monroe and straightforward bluegrass, while simultaneously covering subjects like divorce and the difficulties of settling down. Spears and other bandmembers seem to keep both tradition and the contemporary landscape in mind when writing and this trend is most evident on songs like "Darling, Please Don't Let Our Sweet Love Die" (by Spears) and "Don't Blame Me" (by guitarist Charlie Edsall). Both songs are about divorce, the first with a narrator trying to hang on for dear life, the latter with the protagonist warning his significant other not to walk out the door. Interestingly, Spears and Within Tradition balance these songs out with older classics like Merle Haggard's "The Fugitive" and, like bluegrass bands since the genre started, gospel fare like "Kylee's Prayer." As with the group's former Copper Creek album, the singing, instrumental work, and arrangements are smart and accomplished. Carolina Rain should help the band hold on to old fans and make a few new ones.

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