Bluegrass CD Pick of the Week- Balsam Range

        Balsam Range is the pride of the North Carolina mountains.  It is hard to believe they could duplicate the magic of their first CD, but they did so.  Their second release, ‘Last Train to Kitty Hawk’ re-confirms their position as a nationally acclaimed band.

        Whether it is an original like ‘Jack Diamond’ or a Stanley Brothers reissue such as ‘I’m so Lonesome Without You,’ every cut rings true.  Buddy Melton can sing any kind of tune, but he delivers the sad ones so lonesome it give me goose bumps on the arms and the hair stands up on the back of my neck.  There are breakdowns and gospel numbers, love songs and ballads that tell stories, straight bluegrass and touches of country.  While it does not stray too far from traditional, the collection is an acoustic music variety show.

        All great bands have diversity, and Balsam Range is no exception.  Buddy brings a bluegrass pedigree with a country flair from his days with Jubal Foster.  Tim Surrett has played bass with artists as diverse as Tony Rice and the Kingsmen.  He is also a bluegrass guy, but I like the hint of Southern Gospel in his lead and harmony vocals.

        Mandolinist Darren Nicholson was on the road several years with bluegrass diva Alecia Nuggent, and can play Bill Monroe style or modern bluegrass with equal facility.  He also is steeped in classic county, an influence that shows in his work.  Marc Pruett has toured with everyone from Lester Flatt to Ricky Skaggs and keeps the bluegrass sound prominent in the mix with his classic banjo work.

        An Caleb Smith?  I’ve seen this young man stand shoulder to shoulder with Tony Rice.  He can trade licks with the best and is also a very effective lead singer.  With three who can sing lead the band never falls in a rut.  You get something fresh on every track.

        With these guys there is something old, something new and forever something blue.  Give ’em a listen.

        The link to their website is:  www.balsamrange.com

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