The Lonesome River Band have been one of the best bluegrass bands in the land since their formation in 1982. The band's original members are all long gone, but throughout the band's many personnel changes, its sound has remained consistent, a blend of traditional and progressive styles. The current lineup includes 20-year veteran and four-time IMBA Best Banjo Player winner Sammy Shelor; songwriter, singer, and guitarist Brandon Rickman, returning to the fold after five years as a solo artist; Andy Ball on mandolin and lead and harmony vocals; Mike Anglin on standup and electric bass and harmony vocals; and fiddler Mike Hargrove. Rickman's high lead vocals are a welcome addition to the band, but he's also a first-rate songwriter and contributes three strong originals to the album. "I'm Still Learning," a co-write with Shelor, is a midtempo country/bluegrass hybrid that celebrates the ups and downs of a longtime relationship. Rickman's vocal is supported by Shelor's subtle banjo and Hargrove's subtle fiddle work. "Forty Days in the Desert," another co-write with Shelor, is a bluesy gospel tune about the temptations of Christ, a Bible story brought to vibrant life by Rickman's passionate vocal. "As Wild as I Get" is a simmering country ballad about a good-natured ne'er-do-well musician and his long-suffering wife, with beautiful vocal harmonies and an insightful lyric. Other standout tracks include Merle Haggard's "Red Bandana," given a swinging arrangement highlighting Shelor's banjo, Ball's mandolin, and Hargrove's fiddle; "Any Ole Time" (not the Jimmie Rodgers song), a showcase for the band's compelling vocal harmonies; the blistering "Jack Up the Jail," a tale of moonshine and lawbreaking; and the traditional "Pretty Little Girl," a jam that gives all the bandmembers a chance to show off their chops.
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AllMusic Review by j. poet