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Last Train to Kitty Hawk (Crossroads)
By Bob Mitchell
Balsam Range consists of five phenomenal musicians. Consider the following: Marc Pruett (banjo) played on five albums with Ricky Skaggs (including the Grammy winning "Bluegrass Rules") and has worked with Rhonda Vincent, Bill Monroe, Jimmy Martin, Tony Rice, and Emmy Lou Harris.
Caleb Smith (guitar) has performed with Doyle Lawson, Larry Sparks, and Paul Williams.
Darren Nicholson (mandolin) is a recipient of the International Bluegrass Music Association's Album of the Year award, appeared on the Grand Ole Opry, and worked with Alecia Nugent and Audie Blaylock.
Tim Surrett (bass) has played and recorded with Ralph Stanley, Larry Sparks, Don Rigsby, Vince Gill and Brad Paisley. And finally, Buddy Melton (fiddle) has performed with Sam Bush, Rhonda Vincent, and Porter Wagner.
Pretty impressive credentials.
BR is a fast rising Bluegrass group and their second recording, Last Train to Kitty Hawk, is destined to be one of the year's best releases. Twelve tracks ranging from new original songs like "Julie's Train" and "Jack Diamond" to traditional tunes like Ralph Stanley's "I'm Lonesome Without You" provide a firstrate showcase for the band's vocal abilities and instrumental prowess. Arrangements are tight, and strong varied material provides an excellent demonstration a stage show. A pleasing mix of styles should please hard-core fans and new listeners.
A short list of highlights includes a rousing "Julie's Train," an innovative title track, an up-temp "Caney Fork River," the thoughtful "Spring Will Bring Flowers," a love song, "Down in Caroline," the gospel track, "The Holy Hills," and a feisty instrumental, "Jaxon Point."
On a five-point scale of excellence this release merits a five. For more information go to www.balsamrange.com.