Volume Five- Run review   Leave a comment


untitledI purchased Volume Five’s Run via eMusic a couple months back, largely because I wondered why a band would cover so many standards on their third album. I don’t think I came up with a reason, but the band has come up with a fair to middlin’ bluegrass album, and I don’t mean any disrespect; as I’ve written before, not every album can be 5 star.

They are a good band, and Run features a couple very strong cuts and several interpretations of bluegrass mainstays; a good place to start with Bluegrass 101.

Aaron at Lonesome Road Review sent me a copy to review, and it is up there.

As always, thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald

Volume Five
Run
Mountain Fever Records
3 stars (out of 5)

By Donald Teplyske

Having established themselves on bluegrass radio and on festival stages with their first two albums, Volume Five has continued their development from local jamming friends and performers, becoming a formidable quintet.

Run, released early in 2013, follows a similar pattern to the group’s previous albums: a few originals and several songs that have become well-established standards within bluegrass circles.

This time out, Volume Five have elected to record songs, given their position as standards, that one would not anticipate a band choosing. The album kicks off with “Son of Hickory Holler’s Tramp” and finishes with a four pack of tunes that are so common that they are seldom played beyond a jamming circle: Earl Scruggs’ “Silver Eagle,” John Prine’s “Paradise,” The Stanleys’ “Little Willie,” and the ubiquitous “Fox on the Run.”

Along with “See The Big Man Cry,” these songs are so overdone that even recording them is, in a twist of logic, a brave move. While the band may face criticism for selecting such to record, they in no small way “pull it off.” Yes, the songs are well-established, but they are standards for a reason and to their credit Volume Five brings their own personality to each. The tempo and melody of “Paradise” is has been tweaked a bit, as has “Fox On the Run,” and it sounds as if Glen Harrell was born to sing “Little Willie.”

With “Rich Man’s Daughter” having topped airplay charts earlier this year, one wonders what else the band might have unearthed had they chosen to dig deeper when selecting songs for Run. The title track certainly is appealing, a strong bluegrass tune of familiar subject matter—an escape from a chain gang—and “Thorn Tree Shade” is a fine example of the “betrayed spouse snapping” oeuvre.

Instrumentally and vocally, the band is without doubt tight. Jeff Partin handles the guitar, and also sings lead on his own “Julie.” His voice isn’t as obviously powerful as Harrell’s, but by no means is he out of his element. Jesse Daniel wrote “Run” and his mandolin playing is nicely featured throughout the album (However, shortly after Run was released, Daniel left the group)

The 5-string of Patton Wages established the atmosphere of “Rich Man’s Daughter,” and there is no shortage of banjo on the album’s dozen tracks. Handling the majority of the lead vocals, Harrell also plays fiddle while Chris Williamson provides the solid backbone on bass.

Volume Five’s Run is an enjoyable album, moderately hindered by an abundance of overly well-known material, songs perhaps better left to live performance. At the same time, one appreciates why a group may wish to capture their interpretation of songs audience members seldom tire of hearing. As such, Run reveals that there seems to be an internal struggle waging between the band’s creative drive and their reliance upon the familiar.

Ultimately, this effort suggests that, despite their strengths as musicians and singers, Volume Five may not be ready to progress within a genre that is increasingly populated by artists honing and advancing the music through originality and invention.

 

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