Rambler's Choice

Sounds of the Mountains

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What's the future of straight-ahead, hard-driving bluegrass music? Listen to this high-energy disc. These guys are just about all you could ask for. The core of Rambler's Choice initially gained fame backing up Wyatt Rice on his Rounder disc, Picture in a Tear. Each of the members of this band, which features the traditional bluegrass lineup, is a solid player. With Elmer Burchett on banjo, Alan Perdue on mandolin, Jimmy VanCleve on fiddle, Junior Sisk on guitar, and Tim Massey on bass, the playing has plenty of pep, sparkle, and verve. Their vocals have that high, lonesome sound that is the hallmark of the best bluegrass groups. Kudos all around for tight, precise, three-part harmony. They review traditional themes -- fidelity to home and family, attachment to the land, and down-home religion -- with passion and confidence. If this band has any shortcomings, it's in the songwriting, which is inconsistent. Some of the songs are quite good: "Enough on My Mind" and "Sounds of the Mountains," for example. Others are weak. "What About You" is nothing but warmed-over clich├ęs, and "Education on High" is thin and would benefit from another verse. But all in all, this is a very strong debut by a group of talented gentlemen who have all the technical attributes, passion, and sincerity required to make a name for themselves. If they have the determination to continue developing, they can become household names in bluegrass music.

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