Granted, there’s sometimes a suspicion about the work of younger artists who are still years away from graduating high school, much less the university. The cutesy factor can easily enter the mix, and the more precocious and personable, the greater the cause for caution.
Cash Staub may be a mere 13 years old — he recorded his first album, Cash on the Barrelhead, at the age of 11 — but there’s no need to consider any additional additives when it comes to evaluating his efforts. He’s a more than proficient guitar player, and the fact that he’s one of only three musicians on his new album All Aboard (the other two are Elmer Burchett Jr. on banjo and harmony vocals, and Steve Thomas on fiddle, bass, mandolin, and vocals) furthers his credence substantially. As one would expect, his vocals tend to betray his age, but even so, Staub pulls them off effectively. Still, there’s no small hint of irony that results when Staub sings, “I’ve been working like the dickens, Trying to make a livin’ on the track“ on Asheville Turnaround or moans, “I married me a wife, she gave me trouble all my life.” In each instance, it seems something of stretch for a young man that’s still contending with puberty.
On the other hand, Staub’s read on the Lovin’ Spoonful’s old time standard, Nashville Cats, seems perfectly appropriate, especially when he shares a line like “I was just thirteen, you might say I was a musical proverbial knee-high,” or mentions that those Nashville cats have been “playin’ since they’re babies, get work before they’re two.” Life imitates art, and in this case, it all connects ideally.
While there are a few outside entries, All Aboard is, as the subtitle suggests, a tribute to the music of Del McCoury. Four of the ten tunes were written by McCoury, but even those could be considered familiar fare. If there’s anything at all that’s remotely controversial, it’s White House Blues, a song credited to Bill Monroe that describes the assassination of President William McKinley and the subsequent ascension of his Vice President Teddy Roosevelt to the highest office in the land. One supposes an allusion can be made to the current occupant of the White House, and the possibility of impeachment, but that particular debate might be the thing that’s most difficult to discern from one of such a tender age. Maybe he just likes the song.
Best then to strive for innocence and appreciate Staub’s confidence and credence as a player so early on. It should be interesting to track what transpires over his continuing career.