Wildfire

Rattle of the Chains

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In one way, Wildfire remind one of a number of contemporary bluegrass groups. They have a lively ensemble style, a handful of original songs, and fine harmonies. The lead vocalists, meanwhile, maintain a precarious balance between the old and new, keeping a touch of country twang while smoothing out the rougher edges for a radio-friendly sound. In another way, however, Wildfire separate themselves from the pack with instrumental dexterity. Phil Leadbetter's resonator guitar takes the place of a fiddle in the band, and will remind bluegrass fans of Mike Auldridge's work in the Seldom Scene. Robert Hale, on the other hand, is a heck of a guitar player, creating the same kind of excitement as a good Larry Sparks album. The other lead instrumentalists, mandolinist Darrell Webb and banjoist Barry Crabtree, are equally talented. Wildfire also play well as a group on Rattle of the Chains, and the set list, from singer Hale's originals to old favorites by Ralph Stanley, is solid. There are story-songs ("Their Father's Land"), songs of faith ("All in God's Plan"), and, of course, songs of love gone wrong ("The Blame"). For contemporary bluegrass fans looking for a band with an individual sound, Wildfire deliver on Rattle of the Chains.

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