Hold with Hope


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Hold with Hope Review

by William Ruhlmann

New England bluegrass band Breakaway has undergone extensive personnel changes since its last album, 1997's Watershed. Guitarist Andy Greene and mandolinist Andy Sacher have left, and since both were also lead vocalists and songwriters this change has had a considerable effect on the ensemble's sound. Remaining members Scott Hopkins, Peter Riley, and Gene White Jr. have regrouped, adding guitarist/singer Paul Miller as a permanent member, with mandolinist/singer Taylor Amerding credited as a guest but participating as though he was an equal with the others. Thus, the sound has been filled out, but Greene's presence as a songwriter is still missed. Breakaway has turned more to cover songs as a result, contributing only four originals here, as opposed to the seven on the previous album. For their covers they have turned to some songwriters not usually associated with bluegrass music, including Woody Guthrie ("Pastures of Plenty"), Jesse Colin Young (an instrumental "Darkness, Darkness"), and David Hidalgo and Louis Perez of Los Lobos ("One Time, One Night"). None of the songs sound out of place, however, and more traditional country fare such as Harlan Howard's "Water's So Cold" and George Jones' "Old, Old House" also fits in well. The original material -- two Hopkins instrumentals and two songs by Riley -- is adequate. The result is an album that does nothing to tarnish Breakaway's reputation, but leaves them where they were before, a novelty in the sense of being a competent bluegrass unit from a region not usually associated with the music.

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