Jeff Autry's Foothills is a mix of classic, traditional-styled bluegrass ballads and stunning instrumentals. Of the ballads, "Julie" particularly stands out. This Waylon Jennings song is the classic tale of a fast woman who is both untouchable and "unleavable." The Tom Paxton-penned "Leaving London" is a moving tale of homesickness and features the rich baritone and tenor vocals of Russell Moore (IIIrd Tyme Out) and prominent fiddle from Scott Vestal. Vestal picks up the banjo and lends his baritone/low tenor voice to a cover of the Al Jolson ballroom jazz ballad "Avalon." However, as part of the envelope-pushing "new grass" front, Autry delivers the most on the expansive instrumentals. "Wild Julio" is an excellent example. This is a duet of Autry and Tony Williamson on mandolin. It has a flirtatious, Caribbean feel to it, and it is ready to "cha-cha-cha" at any moment. Other pieces feature '30s/'40s hot jazz sounds from the interplay of the fiddle and bass. This will be instantly graspable by the fans of Squirrel Nut Zippers. Another big part of this is the fast, strummed chords of the mandolin that separate the music from the rapid fast single notes of pure bluegrass. The closing piece is another duet. This time Barbara Lambs joins Autry to cover the always moving "Somewhere Over the Rainbow." The names of the players and their individual, stylistic contribution is of primary importance. Fans of individualized music of virtuoso players, like jazz, will find bluegrass, especially the "new grass" movement, populated by players just as talented that contribute in such unique and identifiable ways.
by Tom Schulte