With all the genre blurring present in modern bluegrass music, which finds artists mixing hints of country, pop, folk, and numerous other genres into the standard 1-4-5 drive, fans of the old sound have wondered if there’s any place for traditional bluegrass in today’s world. In recent years, several artists have made it a point to maintain bluegrass music’s historic sound. While at times this can come across as stale and old-fashioned, some artists find that perfect spot in between upholding tradition and providing audiences with fresh material.
Over the past decade or so, Junior Sisk has proved to be one of those artists. Along with his band Rambler’s Choice, Sisk has consistently produced albums with just the right blend of traditional and contemporary music. He has recently followed up his 2012 IBMA Album of the Year, The Heart of a Song, with yet another spot-on release, The Story of the Day That I Died.
This twelve-song collection from Rebel Records features hard-driving tunes, slow tear-jerkers, and encouraging Gospel songs. Things kick off with the title track, an upbeat, humorous Ashby Frank composition that finds the singer taking a unique revenge on his cheating wife. The band lets loose on several numbers, including the instrumental Jesse James, which could be used to define the term “drive.” Drinking at the Water Hole, a Larry Sparks tune from the early 1980s about finding a little bit of home in the city, has a similar feel and great fast pace.
Sisk is often at his best when he has a lonesome story to tell, and he doesn’t disappoint with A House Where a Home Used to Be (one of the album’s best tracks). Billy Hawks’ fiddle matches Sisk’s mournful vocals for a fine delivery of this Daniel Salyer song about the sad life of a man who can’t get over a lost love. Lover’s Quarrel is straight-ahead traditional bluegrass, with Joe Mullins adding tenor vocals to Junior’s lead on this old Stanley Brothers duet.
Several Gospel songs are also included. Mandolin player Chris Davis offers smooth lead vocals on Prayers Go Up, a melodic, mid-tempo, country-influenced track which reminds listeners that whenever “prayers go up, blessings come down.” Sisk and his father, Harry Sisk, Sr. collaborated to write Walking in Good Company, a nice tune about God’s constant presence in the lives of those who believe in Him.
There aren’t many contemporary bands that can match this line-up in terms of their grasp of traditional bluegrass. Jason Davis is a force to be reckoned with here, truly standing out as one of today’s best banjo players. Jason Tomlin’s bass constantly pushes the beat forward, helped by Sisk’s solid rhythm guitar. Chris Davis and Billy Hawks offer excellent solos throughout as well, and the band comes together to create a seamless sound that fans of traditional bluegrass are sure to love.
For more information on Junior Sisk and Rambler’s Choice, visit their website at www.juniorsisk.us.
The Story of the Day That I Died can be purchased from a variety of online music retailers.
About the Author (Author Profile)
John Goad is a graduate of the East Tennessee State University Bluegrass, Old Time & Country Music program, and is now pursuing a Masters degree in Appalachian Studies at ETSU.
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