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Issue: May 2009

Bluegrass from the Bluegrass

Livin' in the Past (In the Past)
Relic Bluegrass

Louisville's own Relic Bluegrass brings an intensity to its craft, which nevertheless stays true to classic bluegrass form this isn't a "newgrass" combo that is trying to add elements of this or that to create some kind of new sound or subgenre. Skilled picking, lush vocal harmonies and storytelling in song inhabit this lovely collection, which was produced by Steve Cooley.

Relic Bluegrass blends originals with a couple of standards ("Paul and Silas" and "Go Home"), along with some deftly-chosen covers including Johnny Cash's "All Over Again" and Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Lookin' Out My Back Door." The good news is that the originals stand up well against their high-end company.

For instance, mandolin player Dave Howard contributes a clever kiss-off song in "It Ain't You," which is filled with humorous wordplay and a gorgeous three-part harmony. "I had a dream that you left me," Howard croons, "And I wish it would come true. … If you ask me what I'm thinking about tonight/It ain't you."

Banjo player Aaron Bibelhauser also contributes four songs, including the intense instrumental "Wrongful Death" and the longing departure "Here in My Arms," which is a real heartstring-tugger loaded with fine picking and driven by Adam Bibelhauser's thumping bass line. (Adam also sings lead vocal on five of the 12 tracks.)

Guitarist Chuck Sharp also adds a nice shift with his lead vocal contributions on the CCR cover and on "Paul and Silas." The former doesn't take the song anywhere unexpected, but that's probably a good thing.

"Auctioneer" is a bit of a novelty song that tells a simple story about a boy who longs to, well, be an auctioneer, and it gives Adam Bibelhauser a chance to show off his vocal skills, which is reminiscent of Cash's vocal on "One Piece at a Time."

All in all, this is a worthwhile collection, providing a showcase not only for the band's instrumental talents but also a nice way to present some songwriting chops too. And check 'em out live. You won' regret it.

Find out more at www.relicbluegrass.com.

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