Session 1 – Sideline

Session 1 - SidelineWhile bluegrass isn’t a summer-only music, it’s no secret that the warmer months are well suited to the festivals, camping, and late-night jams beside of campfires and picnic tables that bluegrass fans love so well. Many bluegrass artists slow down during the winter, perhaps playing a handful of shows or spending time recording. Looking to keep busy, IIIrd Tyme Out banjo man Steve Dilling got together on the side a few years ago with some friends to play a few Christmastime performances. Those performances, as well as a few IBMA showcases, led to the formation of Sideline, a band that some are calling the newest bluegrass “supergroup.”

Sideline has recently released its first album, a twelve-track collection on Mountain Fever Records entitled Session I. Like several previous supergroups, Sideline has chosen to fall hard on the side of tradition with this effort, packing the album with driving, banjo-heavy numbers that are largely pulled from the past. The majority of the songs here are old bluegrass favorites, with a few well-done new tracks, leading to a strong, enjoyable modern traditional album.

Darrell Webb’s distinctive lead vocals can be found on the majority of tracks here, and as usual, he does a fine job interpreting the sounds of tradition. One of the standout songs is Marshall Wilborn’s Goodbye to the Blues. Slightly updated and a bit darker sounding than the Johnson Mountain Boys’ cut of the song, this number finds Webb being quite angry at the blues that just won’t leave him alone. Another song which is particularly strong is the old country favorite What Made Milwaukee Famous, which has a nice classic country sound and emotion-filled vocals from Webb.

Girl at the Crossroads Bar is upbeat, with tight harmonies and fine fiddling from Justen Haynes. Jimmy Martin’s classic Sophronie is also fast-paced, performed at a furious, breakneck speed. Fans of very traditional bluegrass may be a bit unsettled hearing it, but they should certainly enjoy Sideline’s straightforward, mid-tempo take on Bill Monroe/Lester Flatt song When You’re Lonely.

Of the newer tracks, The Way, The Truth, The Light stands out. It’s an enjoyable Gospel tune penned by Webb in the style of classic Flatt and Scruggs. Old Joe Clark Blues is an update on the traditional banjo tune, telling the story of Old Joe Clark, his family, and his music, while I Wonder if Our Love is the Healing Kind finds the singer musing on the state of a broken relationship.

There’s no doubt for one second of this album that the musicians here are talented. Dilling is a force to be reckoned with throughout the album, driving his banjo as hard as he can on almost every track, making this album a treat for fans of the five. Webb (mandolin), Haynes (fiddle), Skip Cherryholmes (guitar), and Jason Moore (bass) all contribute solid efforts both vocally and instrumentally, as well.

While the musicians in Sideline may play varying styles of bluegrass in their regular bands, they come together here to create a fine modern traditional album. For more information, visit the band’s Facebook at www.facebook.com/sideline2. Their new album can be purchased from various online music retailers.

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About the Author

John Curtis Goad

John Goad is a graduate of the East Tennessee State University Bluegrass, Old Time & Country Music program, with a Masters degree in both History and Appalachian Studies from ETSU.

  • David Smith

    Thank you for this wonderful review, John. Being a bluegrass DJ in the modern-day I have the blessing and the curse of working with digital downloads – a blessing because resources such as Airplay Direct put the new music in your hands (well, on your computer) and a curse because the download doesn’t include the information on songwriting, musicians, recording studio, etc… that I’ve come to appreciate and enjoy sharing on my radio program.

    I came upon the Session 1 release and downloaded it based upon the song selections alone. I was blown away by the entire album and upon playing, “Girl at the Crossroads Bar” the other day on the radio show, I said into the mic, “Now this is a band I have to admit I know very little about, but I’m going to look into.”

    Your review has inspired me to play more of their music – and you’ve now done all the research for me – thanks!

  • Mountain Fever Records

    David, send a message to us at radio@mountainfever.com and I just happen to know a guy that can fix you up with a much better system to get the info you need.

  • Dennis Jones

    Airplay direct is so hard to use and it’s MP3 too.