Saravanan Sankaran — Back to Bassics

Juli Thanki | August 22nd, 2011

photoAs its puntastic title suggests, Back to Bassics is a collection of solid, no-frills bluegrass, something that’s not as effortless to make as it sounds. Saravanan “Sav” Sankaran, the boyishly-voiced bass player for The Dixie Bee-Liners, leads a sharp band—with Adam Steffey on mandolin and Ron Stewart pulling double duty on banjo and fiddle—through eleven tracks that include a pair of excellent Bill Monroe covers (hear a clip of “Old Dangerfield” in the video below).

With such a talented group of musicians, it’d be a sin to not show them off on a few instrumentals, the aforementioned “Old Dangerfield” being one of them. Steffey, in particular, shines on a sprightly version of “New Camptown Races.” Original material from other contemporary bluegrass songwriters like Zach Bevill (The Farewell Drifters), Andy Hall (Infamous Stringdusters) and Jon Weisberger (Chris Jones & The Night Drivers) makes up the bulk of the album, but the two Sav-penned songs are the record’s best, revealing a mature songwriting talent that we’ll hopefully get to hear more of on future albums. “Alleghenies” pays tribute to his rural Pennsylvania roots while “Miner’s Lament” is a moving ballad told from the perspective of a broken down Pennsylvania coal digger whose heart has turned “as cold as the hard anthracite” he mines.

Back to Bassics is a strong album, and the fact that it’s Sankaran’s first solo record makes it even more impressive. It’s not currently available for purchase online; but it’s definitely worth tracking down a copy at a Dixie Bee-Liners show or festival appearance.

3.5 Stars

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