The Lonesome River boys celebrate 30 years of playing music and making records this year, still one of the top bands in the bluegrass field. They've had their share of personnel shifts, and while none of the founders remain on board, banjo player and bandleader Sammy Shelor has been with the group for 20-plus years and keeps the flame alive. To celebrate the band's longevity they'll be releasing three Chronology collections, eight-track mini-albums that will reprise some of their greatest hits. Volume One concentrates on the '80s. "The Game Is Over" and "Hobo Blues" are from Carrying the Tradition, the set the put them on the map. Singer/guitarist Brandon Rickman lends his country soul to "The Game," putting his stamp on the tune Ronnie Bowman introduced, and duets with mandolin player Randy Jones on "Hobo Blues," featuring Shelor's haunted banjo and short, punchy solos from the rest of the band to support their playful call and response vocals. Eric Anderson's "Close the Door Lightly When You Go," seemed like an unlikely cover when the band took it on in 1987, but they transformed the despondent, bluesy feel of Anderson's original with a rollicking arrangement that made it a celebration of independence after the end of a bad relationship. They do likewise here, with Jones taking lead vocal chores. "Old Man in the Shanty" is given a traditional treatment as it tells the tale of a cranky loner befriending a young boy. Hargrove's fiddle and Shelor's banjo support Rickman's poignant vocal. "Angeline the Baker," the one new track on the EP, is an instrumental that opens with an impressive interplay between Shelor's banjo and Mike Hargrove's fiddle before the rest of the group comes in to provide a stirring finish to the album.
AllMusic Review by j. poet