Album Review: Audie Blaylock & Redline – Audie Blacklock & Redline
If a bluegrass band could be engineered in a Kentucky lab, the end result would probably sound a lot like Audie Blaylock and Redline. Blaylock honed his skills as a member of Jimmy Martin’s Sunny Mountain Boys when he was just nineteen years old. Nearly thirty years and a handful of IBMA awards later (including one for Entertainer of the Year while with Rhonda Vincent and The Rage), Blaylock is heading up his own band and releasing his second full length album.
Blaylock can hardly be described as an experimental musician, and you definitely can’t call him the dirtiest insult known to purists: Newgrass. He has both feet firmly planted within the traditional bluegrass sound, with little deviation from the sound created by Bill Monroe and Earl Scruggs some sixty years ago. The result is a bit generic—there’s not much distinguishing this band from the umpteen other bluegrass groups making the rounds—but it’s certainly not bad.
Audie Blaylock & Redline opens with “Whispering Waters,” a stunning song about a man driven to suicide by–what else–a false-hearted lover. The peppy arrangement belies the song’s somber narrative, but when Blaylock sings “Once your arms held me, they held me so tight/But the whispering waters will hold me tonight” it’s possible to feel shivers even as you can’t help but tap your foot to the beat.
The record continues in this general vein as Blaylock and Redline progress through the list of bluegrass music’s approved subject matter: blue-eyed darlings, lonesome hearts, heaven’s bright shores, and no-account women. The only song missing is a murder ballad.
The entire album leans heavy on bluegrass’ gospel tradition, with a third of the album’s twelve tracks being gospel songs. There’s not a bad one in the bunch, and although “Send Me Your Address from Heaven,” (originally written by classic brother harmony duo John and Walter Bailes), is exactly as mawkish as the title makes it seem, Blaylock’s country-boy earnestness might just be enough to melt the icy facade of even the most cold-hearted listener.
As frontman, Blaylock takes the lead on most of the songs (though on most choruses, as well as “Mountain Laurel in Bloom,” he hands lead vocals over to mandolin player Jason Johnson), but the talent of his backing band is nothing to overlook. Following in their boss’ footsteps, the quartet is heavy on the tradition and light on the years. Most notable are fiddler Patrick McAvinue and banjo player Evan Ward; the two men are just barely able to enjoy a post-performance beer, but their hard-driving music is already reminiscent of bluegrass’ best.
You heard it here first: in thirty years, the musicians of Redline will be household names among bluegrass fanatics.
It seems as though Blaylock has found himself in good company with his new label, Rural Rhythm Records. Also home to John McEuen, Randy Kohrs and Melanie Cannon, Rural Rhythm is known for its dedication to preservation of traditional and roots music both old and new, and while Audie Blaylock and Redline may not break any new musical ground, when it comes to creating solid, straight-up bluegrass, they’ve got it covered.
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