Steep Canyon Rangers

The Steep Canyon Rangers

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The Steep Canyon Rangers experience changes on their third album. In their ascent within the world of bluegrass, they achieve a milestone by hooking up with industry leader Rebel Records after releasing their first album on their own label and their second on Yep Roc. At the same time, however, they suffer attrition, as fiddler Elizabeth "Lizzie" Hamilton is missing from the lineup, reducing them to a guitar-banjo-mandolin-bass quartet. (Josh Goforth fills in on most tracks, with John Garris wielding the bow on "The Last Thing the World Needs" and "454.") They ride out these upheavals with another excellent collection consisting mostly of originals, most of those written by banjoist Graham Sharp. Guitarist Woody Platt handles most of the lead vocals, with harmonies added by the others, singing songs that tell of romantic discord, drinking, and criminal injustice, as well as name-checking bluegrass predecessors ("Bluegrass Blues"). Perhaps the greatest compliment to be handed out to this outfit of young players performing new songs is that much of the time they sound like an old group playing traditional material. (Well, "Feelin' Just Like Dale" [Earnhardt, that is] couldn't be too traditional.) If that means that their sound is necessarily retro, that's no crime in the bluegrass field.

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