Blue Moon Rising- One Lonely Shadow


An experiment, if you will.

It remains a thrill to see my writing in print; a bit of an ego rush, and a sense of awe that ‘someone’ found my writing to be sufficiently coherent or insightful to publish it. I balance such stroking with knowledge of the value  of an excellent editor, and have been blessed with a superior one these past many years as I’ve written for Bluegrass Now.

As you may be aware, the magazine will cease to exist after this month. A move from paper periodical to electronic publishing didn’t look promising, and the Bledsoes have elected to fold the tent rather than continue an uphill struggle. Understandable that. I’ll miss writing for Wayne Bledsoe. He was and is a class act, a bluegrass gentleman if you will, and has treated me very well over the years. Deb and Caroline, too, on the few occassions I wrote features for them. But it was Wayne who held my hand, and guided my writing. I didn’t always learn from his editing, and likely will always write long rather than well, but if you can’t be one, be the other.

I was struck this week when viewing the final review I wrote for BN, one I submitted just a couple weeks prior to receiving word that the magazine was folding. When I read my review of Blue Moon Rising’s One Lonely Shadow, I had that initial jolt of adrenaline. Pretty impressive! Man, that guy can write, I thought to myself. But, reality has a way of catching up to you, and this time was no exception.

As is my habit, I then went to my archive and dug out my submitted review. And while I quite like some elements of it, I have to admit- I’m going to miss having an editor like Wayne Bledsoe reading and tightening my writing. The evidence was and is clear.

Anyhow, here is the experiment. I am posting my original writing and I’ll also post a link to what appeared online in BN. I think it is important to value the editor, but I also think it is good to see what was excised. Some of it, I think, was good, but other parts were wisely chopped. See what you think- either way and despite my writing, it is a very strong album- one of the year’s best bluegrass and Americana releases. Here is how I wrote it originally-

Blue Moon Rising

One Lonely Shadow

Lonesome Day Records

 

In a world ostensibly bursting with under-heralded bluegrass bands, Blue Moon Rising is not immediately obvious as extraordinary.

 

Having recorded three previous albums to somewhat limited fan fare, the band is typical of many; those who hear them, love them. Unfortunately, not enough hear them!

 

The band has endured several supporting personnel changes, again not atypical in the bluegrass world where exhaustive hours and countless miles often lead to insignificant financial compensation and family dissatisfaction.

 

Blue Moon Rising- comprised of three excellent musicians and singers- is not unusual even when one examines their credentials. There is no shortage of outstanding bluegrass instrumentalists and vocalists plying their trade, and many of those have worked just as doggedly as the members of Blue Moon Rising.

 

So, why should anyone care about this trio from East Tennessee? Because they are just so darn good!

 

Blue Moon Rising are smooth a la Blue Highway, and are as accessible as the Gibson Brothers. They’re every bit as traditional as James King, but they’re a touch edgy in the same way Chris Stuart & Backcountry push boundaries. And the songs they record! Those they do not write themselves are masterfully selected, and those they do write are top-notch.

 

It has been three years since Chris West (guitar and mandolin), Justin Jenkins (banjo), and Keith Garrett (guitar and mandolin) dropped On the Rise, their previous Lonesome Day album. Much has changed in that time, but what has remained consistent is the driving, banjo-propelled orientation of the band, one that embraces more overtly Americana influences this time than their previous releases.

 

The band possesses the modesty to accept that others write as good as they can, and even better. BMR turn to the songwriting mastery of Van Zandt (“Marie”), Springsteen (“Youngstown”), Fulks (“Where There’s A Road”) and Eaglesmith (“Freight Train”) for four familiar but seldom heard songs to anchor the collection. The trio- augmented by Mike Bub, Tim Crouch, Cody Kilby, and others- do not reinvent these dramatically written songs, but add acousitiblue shadings that sharpen their presentation into something decidedly bluegrass.

 

The band written material, particularly West’s “The Hanging Tree” and Garrett’s “Angeline”, complement the borrowed tunes. Written with Tayla Brook, “The Hanging Tree” has story elements- history, pain, darkness, and retribution- to make it a classic within the bluegrass canon. West’s “I Grew Up Today” is a country heart-wrecker that should have Alan Jackson and George Strait placing calls.

 

Not everything is heavy and heady. Balance is achieved with West’s romping “Five More Days of Rain,” a number that should receive airplay and experience chart action. “Stone Cold Loneliness” and “Good Time for Going Home” hold similar commercial appeal, and should appeal to a range of listeners.

 

Two numbers look to the spiritual side of life, and are well-executed. Both Verlon Thompson’s “”I Will Come Back Again” and the original “Revival” provide challenge and inspiration without didactic bombast.

 

Having long followed the rise of Blue Moon Rising, I appreciate how simultaneously consistent and exciting the band remains. Much of the credit goes to God-given musical talent, but much can also be attributed to the band member’s intuition and sensibility. One Lonely Shadow should be argued over when Album of the Year nominees are considered.

 

And this is how it was published in the final issue of Bluegrass Now

 

Having recorded three previous albums to somewhat limited fanfare, the band is typical of many: those who hear them love them. Unfortunately, not enough hear them!

Blue Moon Rising is smooth, à la Blue Highway, and as accessible as the Gibson Brothers. They’re every bit as traditional as James King, but they’re a touch edgy in the same way Chris Stuart & Backcountry push boundaries.

It has been three years since Chris West (guitar and mandolin), Justin Jenkins (banjo), and Keith Garrett (guitar and mandolin) recorded On the Rise, their previous Lonesome Day album. Much has changed in that time, but what has remained consistent is the driving, banjo-propelled orientation of the band, one that embraces more overtly Americana influences than their previous releases.

The band-written material, particularly West’s “The Hanging Tree” and Garrett’s “Angeline,” complement the borrowed tunes. Written with Tayla Brook, “The Hanging Tree” has story elements–history, pain, darkness, and retribution–-to make it a classic within the bluegrass canon. West’s “I Grew Up Today” is a country heartwrecker that should have Alan Jackson and George Strait placing calls to the songwriters.

Not everything is heavy and heady. Balance is achieved with West’s romping “Five More Days of Rain,” a number that will likely enjoy airplay and chart action. “Stone Cold Loneliness” and “Good Time for Going Home” hold similar commercial appeal, and should appeal to a range of listeners.

This band has remained simultaneously consistent and exciting. Much of the credit for this can be attributed to their God-given musical talent, but an equal amount can be ascribed to the band members’ intuition and sensibility. One Lonely Shadow should be argued over when Album of the Year nominees are considered.

 

Tighter certainly, more concise and perhaps less indulgent. Still…it’s hard seeing your words chopped. What’s the number one rule of writing? For me, Don’t fall in love with your words; they ain’t that impressive! (Thanks, Mr. King).  The best writing I do is what isn’t written, and I think this adage has been proven once again! So, my thanks to Wayne Bledsoe for all his efforts in helping me improve my writing, and for publishing a top-quality bluegrass magazine for so many years. Enjoy the rest of your retirement. I’ll miss my relationship with you and the magazine. Donald

 

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