It's not completely accurate to call this Keith Sewell's debut album. He actually recorded a full program for a Universal subsidiary a few years back, and it was ready for release when the parent company shut down its subsidiary label, leaving the album in more or less permanent purgatory. Sewell took his frustration and channeled it into a fertile and extended period of songwriting, while carrying on sideman duties with the likes of Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush, and Ricky Skaggs. It was Skaggs who ended up giving Sewell the opportunity to record a new batch of original songs, and this fine album is the result. Sewell's years of dedicated work on other people's projects has resulted in an enviable Rolodex filled with A-list pickers who owe him favors, and the payoff is apparent on every track: featured sidemen include Scott Vestal (whose athletic newgrass banjo picking makes "Shambles" the album's most exciting song), mandolinists Andy Leftwich, Sam Bush, and Ricky Skaggs, and dobro king Jerry Douglas. Few of the songs fit the "bluegrass" category very comfortably at all, but all have a certain bluegrass flavor; highlights include the nostalgic but rhythmically robust "Sawdust Hill," the equally powerful "Back Where We Belong," and a brilliant instrumental titled "Duncan Station." The album ends with a fine original gospel tune written to sound like an old traditional gospel tune, featuring an excellent guest vocal by Skaggs. The only misstep comes on "Ripples on the Water," when Sewell experiments with some really ill-advised and cheesy electric guitar effects. Highly recommended overall.
AllMusic Review by Rick Anderson