It seems that the annual IBMA convention and awards always stir up the familiar argument about whether traditional bluegrass gets its due, or is getting squeezed out by newer, bluegrass-derived music. This has always struck me as a needless and tedious argument, especially with so much fabulous new music being written and recorded in the old school manner.
Just such is the new release from Ohio’s Larry Efaw and the Bluegrass Mountaineers, She Left Me Standing On A Mountain. Efaw plays mandolin and sings a share of lead vocals in this stridently traditional outfit, on a set of 15 tracks that mix bluegrass classics and strong original songs written by his father, Edward Efaw.
All have a distinct Stanley Brothers feel, accentuated by the arch-top banjo sound from Tom Isaac and the pure tenor voice of guitarist John Bryan. Stanley Efaw, Larry’s son, plays bass and fiddle on the album. Both the song choices and the performance hew to the old time way, down to the ragged-but-right execution in the studio. No spit and polish here, just sincere, authentic traditional bluegrass.
The title (and opening) track is a Delmore Brothers number, made popular in bluegrass by Jim & Jesse, followed by one of the record’s strongest cuts, the elder Efaw’s Little Mountain Home, a straightforward, Stanley-esque, banjo-driven song. Several others capture the Carter and Ralph sound, including Our Darling’s Gone and Will He Wait A Little Longer from the Stanley Brothers catalog, plus Broken Heart And A Worried Mind by Edward Efaw, and Don’t You Call My Name from Herbert Campbell.
A real treat comes in Isaac’s version of Silver Bells, famously recorded and associated with both Earl Scruggs and Don Reno. Tom goes for the Reno approach here and executes it beautifully.
The album closes with another instrumental, a quick take on Bill Monroe’s Old Brown County Barn.
Larry Efaw and the Bluegrass Mountaineers tour widely though out Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, and can also be found at major festivals outside their home turf. If you pine for the older sounds of bluegrass, take a look in their direction.
She Left Me Standing On The Mountain is on Tom T. and Dixie Hall’s Blue Circle Records, and can be purchased on CD from the band web site, or digitally from popular online resellers. Radio programmers can download the album from Airplay Direct.