Most of the album focuses on the talents of eldest son Andrew Rigney, who plays guitar, sings all but two of the lead vocals, and wrote five of the eleven tracks presented here. Younger brother Grant plays mandolin and fiddle, co-wrote one song with Andrew, handles two lead vocals, and sings harmony on the others.
Mom and dad pull their weight here as well. Melissa Rigney plays bass, and her husband Mark contributes banjo and harmony vocals.
They are the first act signed to the new Dark Shadow Recording label, run by Sam Bush guitarist and noted acoustic producer Stephen Mougin. His influence is evident throughout, having co-written two songs with Andrew and coaching the band with song choices and arrangements as producer. And it is the quality and diversity of the songs that is especially remarkable for a band that relys on such young performers.
Andrew Rigney is already a force to be reckoned with in bluegrass, taken as either a singer, songwriter or guitarist. Let’s consider him in each of those categories in turn. As part of a new generation of bluegrass guitarists, Andrew has a developed a style largely devoid of the Tony Rice mannerisms that so dominate the playing of the generation before him – the ones who learned at Tony’s knee, metaphorically speaking. At 20 years old, Rigney would have started playing around the time that Rice was withdrawing from regular touring, and in fact, there is more Tim Stafford or Kenny Smith in what he plays – lead and rhythm – than there are Rice-isms.
Andrew’s songs are surprisingly mature for his age. The title cut, written with Mougin, has the protagonist telling his little darlin’ that “she’s good but I’m better, I’ve got something up my sleeve,” in their argument over who needs who. Something Old, Something New offers quite a contrast with its reflections on what’s good in life, looking forward and back at the same time, in a slower ballad style.
Andrew is also possessed of an appealing and agile voice, perfectly suited to the band’s type of music. He can snarl out the contempt on Double Or Nothing, just as well as he expresses sensitivity on Bridges, a strong song by Becky Buller, Elizabeth Shrum and Jeff Hyde, with its contemplative tag line, “Some bridges are burning when you get there.”
Brother Grant is likely to develop into a fine vocalist as well. On Last Stop On The Line, he betrays a fondness for bluesy, rockabilly songs, complete here with Memphis-style, Elvis reverb. Low Down shows that these two excel on close brother harmony too, with Grant taking lead and Andrew tenor.
The boys co-wrote Bluegrass Band, in the familiar “song about the music” format, which manages to mention all the instruments and many of the heroes found in bluegrass, and why they love it so well. Also strong are Lisa Shaffer and Robert Gerald Smith’s For Every Valley with a powerful message about life’s ups and downs, and Finally Going Home by Katie and Mark Petersen, which features Mark, Grant and Andrew swapping verses on this examination of a life at its end.
The album’s sole instrumental, Andrew’s Truck Rust and Tobacco Barns, lets both young Rigneys shine, along with pop on the old five string. Mark’s banjo playing is solid and appropriate throughout, staying more in the background allowing the boys to shine. Melissa likewise supports the groove on bass without calling attention to herself.
Double Or Nothing finds The Rigneys with a strong statement as adult entertainers, with a bright future ahead of them.
The CD is available from the band’s web site, and from popular digital download sites.
About the Author (Author Profile)
John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.
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