With his band Redline behind him, Audie Blaylock is one of the hardest working men in the business of bluegrass. The album title, Hard Country, could be taken both literally and ironically. The ballads Blaylock writes wouldn't be out of place on a mainstream country station, but emotionally and lyrically, they're probably a bit hardcore for today's country radio market. On the other hand, Redline is a sturdy traditional bluegrass outfit with chops to spare, although they tend to avoid showing off their prowess in favor of short, concise solos that move the music forward. Case in point, the closing instrumental "Newton's Grove," a piece that gives everyone in the group a chance to shine, with Jesse Brock's mandolin and Russell Carson's banjo particularly impressive as they play off of Patrick McAvinue's skillful fiddling. Blaylock's high, expressive tenor is put to good use on "A Real Good Way to Loose," a tune that sounds like a potential classic. Carson's banjo and Jason Moore's bass support Blaylock's wrenching vocal. Redline shows off the best of both worlds on tracks like the Jim & Jesse classic "Stormy Horizons" -- with Blaylock delivering a tear-choked lead vocal -- and Woody Guthrie's "Philadelphia Lawyer," a lighthearted murder ballad that features short, concise solos from Brock's mandolin, Carson's banjo, and McAvinue's fiddle. Blaylock also contributes two fine originals to the album. "The Chair" tells the story of a poor boy who carves his fiancée a rocking chair for a wedding present. It may be the catchiest melody on the album and features Carson's banjo, McAvinue's fiddle, and a poignant chorus: "He said, ‘My love this'll have to do/'til a ring of gold I can buy for you." "A Grandmother's Love" is a gospel song played in waltz time, with chilling vocal harmonies and an inspirational message about the love that holds a family together and a grandmother's faith in the Lord.
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AllMusic Review by j. poet