Chris Jones & the Night Drivers Lonely Comes Easy Rebel Records http://chrisjonesgrass.com/
Chris Jones may well be the low-nsomest singer currently experiencing success in the always competitive bluegrass market, and any accolades coming his way are well deserved. That he and the Night Drivers have coalesced into a premier live act and a formidable recording outfit continues to be a surprisingly well-kept secret within the bluegrass mainstream, this despite maintaining considerable chart presence the past couple years.
“Final Farewell,” included as part of their previous Lost Souls & Free Spirits collection, topped playlists across the continent and in 2012 was named the #1 Song of the Year by Bluegrass Today. Released earlier this year, both “Wolf Creek Pass” and “If That Was Love,” and included here, continued the Night Drivers’ string of airplay consistency.
Respected and personable, Jones possesses a distinctive voice and his delivery of songs is unlike any other bluegrass singer I can locate within my memory. The Night Drivers themselves- Ned Luberecki, Jon Weisberger, and Mark Stoffel- are perhaps the smoothest group working together this side of Blue Highway, vocally and instrumentally.
Excellence is therefore expected when considering their new release Lonely Comes Easy, and such is certainly delivered.
I believe we are fortunate to be living in a time when the collective term ‘bluegrass’ has come to mean different things to various artists. I understand that Bill Monroe once advised Peter Rowan not to wander too far out on the branch, and as long as artists remember that sage advice, our music is bound to become a richer, more vibrant community. Bluegrass can’t all sound the same.
I’m not advocating the infusion of hip-hop beats and electric guitar solos into our favourite music; I’m recognizing that the music of Frank Solivan, Junior Sisk, Dale Ann Bradley, Dailey & Vincent, The Earl Brothers, the Gibsons, Blue Mafia (a new personal favourite), Chris Jones, and a hundred others are all different shades of bluegrass, individual and distinctive from each other and providing a range of sounds and approaches leading to the vitality of today’s contemporary bluegrass experience.
Chris Jones & the Night Drivers provide evidence of that journey throughout Lonely Comes Easy. Here they present a very strong selection of new, original songs and astutely selected familiar ones, ‘grass-infused re-recordings of a pair from Jones’ Little Dog album of several years back, and a couple engaging instrumentals.
Want the band to tear it up? Check out “Barn Burner” or Luberecki’s “Don’t Blink.”
A waltz, good and slow with a bit of sentimentality? Consider “Then I Close My Eyes” or “A Few More Years,” a recording from more than a decade ago included as a wee bonus.
Looking for radio-friendly sing-a-longs? “If That Was Love,” “Where I Am,” and the title track fit that bill.
An impressive, original faith-based song? “One Who’s Coming After Me” should do it.
A reminder of Doc Watson’s influence on roots music? A spare “Wake Up, Little Maggie” is a mid-set showstopper; Jones sounds so good on this one, I hope he considers recording an entire album of songs associated with Watson…if only for me.
Personally, “Wolf Creek Pass” does little to nothing for me, but how does one argue with the marketplace? Besides, the version included here benefits from an extended mid-song jam that is ‘cluck-a-block’ with impressive instrumental finery.
Lonely Comes Easy is a deep and balanced presentation of bluegrass music. It isn’t any one thing, and it certainly doesn’t try to be too many things. It is a recording Chris Jones & the Night Drivers should be proud of, and is one that will continue to get airplay in my truck in the months to come.
It hits the marketplace August 27.
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