Marty Raybon

Southern Roots & Branches (Yesterday & Today)

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During his years as lead singer for Shenandoah, Marty Raybon gave voice to the traditional side of country when many other acts were chasing the sound of country-rock looking for crossover success. Shenandoah stayed close to the sound of old-time country music, and since he left the band and went out on his own, Raybon has stayed on the traditional side of the street. This album could be marketed as roots music just as easily as it could be called bluegrass, with Raybon's down-home style shining throughout. The album is divided between familiar hits and newer tunes, all played perfectly by a studio band of A-list musicians. There are two Bill Monroe tunes: "Rocky Road Blues" is given a straightforward midtempo performance, while "White House Blues" is played at a lightning-fast tempo and showcases the high end of Raybon's vocals and the blistering fretwork of the band. Flatt & Scruggs' "Down the Road" is taken at a rolling, bouncy tempo and features fine lead guitar by Bryan Sutton. Raybon's "Get Up in Jesus' Name" is a spiritual that urges us to do our best in troubled times, while "Big Pain" is a tale of lost love that Raybon delivers with a raw vocal that's close to a wail of agony. He also reprises several Shenandoah hits in fine acoustic arrangements, including "Next to You, Next to Me," which gets a jaunty treatment that brings to mind an early Hank Williams session, and "Ghost in This House," which still sounds shattered and hopeless in the tradition of all desperate country songs of lost love.

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