Dry Branch Fire Squad
Echoes of the Mountains
Many have been a-waiting fresh music from Ron Thomason’s Dry Branch Fire Squad since hearing their last album, Hand Hewn, more than seven years ago. With only a live set surfacing in the interim, doubters can be forgiven for fearing the venerable outfit had sang and picked their last.
And then comes Echoes of the Mountains, as strong a bluegrass album as has been released this year, and one that equals or surpasses many of the dozen or so albums previously released by DBFS.
Few combine the stories of the mountains with the sounds of bluegrass quite like Thomason, and his voice hasn’t lost anything with the passage of the years. With his languid vocal delivery, Thomason places emphasis on the stories of the past. And what stories they are!
Within songs both familiar and new- but mostly familiar- we have death from cattle stampede and conclusion jumping, a fruitless, pained search for a lost sibling, reminiscences of times and ways long past, faithful dogs, some brimstone, and even Sam Cooke brought down to the home place.
Fancy, furious picking has never been a hallmark of the DBFS’s, but there is no doubting they can more than hold there own; the manner in which they rework Bring It One Home to Me or fire-up Grayson’s Train reminds listeners of the group’s instrumental dexterity.
A fine return from one of bluegrass music’s longest running institutions, and one that assures that age and experience are no hindrance to the creation of memorable music.