California

Traveler

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Bluegrass specialists California aren't hurting for lack of energy or talent. A diverse group, their Irish influences are reflected in "Rocker Arm Reel," "A Walk in the Irish Rain," and Byron Berline's idiosyncratic fiddling. Elsewhere surfaces the more predictable sounds of Merle Haggard, Gordon Lightfoot, and, of course, Bill Monroe. Their harmonies are nice, and the original songs by bassist Steve Spurgin reflect a literate, sincere concern for traditional values. They also throw themselves headlong into some amusing novelty tunes ("Sasquatch") and experiment with progressive bluegrass on the title track. Their super-clean picking and wholesome image make for pleasant listening, not always compelling but certainly worthy of attention.

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