Cedar Hill- New Chapter review


Cedar Hill New Chapter Mountain Fever

Bluegrass can be complex.

It doesn’t have to be.

Simultaneously, it isn’t simple music, and it certainly isn’t easy to play.

I just spent a weekend at a bluegrass festival featuring 18 acts, nine of them solid bluegrass of various shades. These groups all impressed in various ways, but the ones that most attracted me—and I am guessing always will—were those that approached bluegrass from the most traditional direction.

While Cedar Hill wasn’t at the festival, they would have fit into this category.

Frank Ray has been leading Cedar Hill for decades, and no matter who is in the band, the sound of the group is solidly traditional. Nothing fancy, nothing pushing the edges. Pure ‘grass, the way it should be.

Straight out of the Ozarks, Cedar Hill continue producing their kind of bluegrass. With New Chapter the group, fronted by Dalton Harper on lead vocals, are as impactful as ever.

The songs cover the ground bluegrass should: “That Stanley Sound,” mothers and the passage of time (“Tend to My Flowers”) honky tonkin’ consequences (“Number One at the Bottom”), faith (“Are You Born Again,) and instrumental love (“This Old Guitar.”) The final two mentioned are strong, original numbers. Frank Ray’s “Leavin’ Egypt” instrumental, previously recorded by the group on “Stories” in 2004, further enlivens the set.

Cedar Hill is Ray (mandolin,) Bill Cross (banjo, Dobro, guitar,) Pete Brown (fiddle), Patti LaFleur (bass), and Harper (guitar) with everyone singing various parts.

A number of these songs have hit the bluegrass charts including “How Deep Is the Lonesome,” “The Art of Love,” and “Tend to My Flowers.” Start to finish, a memorable and pleasing bluegrass album expertly executed.

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