Steve Thomas’s musical career has been a bit of a roundabout trip through the music business, taking him from stints with bluegrass greats like The Osborne Brothers and Del McCoury, to tours and recordings with country stars such as Brooks and Dunn and Barbara Mandrell. Many bluegrass fans are probably most familiar with his name from his 2014 #1 with Mark Newton, Old McDonald Sold the Farm, but Thomas’s instrumental and vocal skill goes back several decades. Now, he’s released a new album on Pinecastle’s Bonfire label with his touring band, All Of These Years, showcasing a fine set of originals, old favorites, and a few newer cuts.
The lead single, Down in the Wildwood is a cheerful, light song about young love that has withstood the test of time, guided by Josh Matheny’s dobro and banjo from Scott Vestal. It’s an enjoyable number that’s sure to do well on radio, and one of several originals from Thomas. Another original is Since Love Came Around, a gentle number about the power of love. Its easygoing, peaceful feel has a Tim Stafford vibe. Thomas also penned the bluesy The Rat Race, a takedown of the constant busyness that permeates today’s society. He contributed most of the instrumentation on this number, and the guitar and fiddle are particularly of note here.
Country music fans are likely to recognize a few songs on the album. Lucky Man was a hit for Montgomery Gentry in 2006, and it transfers well to bluegrass. Earnest vocals from Thomas, a foot-tapping rhythm, and bright banjo from Chris Wade made the song a repeat listen for me. Also enjoyable is The Moon Over Georgia, a top ten song for Shenandoah in 1991. Thomas’s version of this heartfelt love song is faithful to the original, with strong country-style lead vocals from Matheny.
It wouldn’t be a bluegrass album without a nod to the genre’s founding fathers, and Thomas makes several. Bill Monroe’s Rocky Road Blues is a fun romp, as it should be, with Thomas trying his hand at a yodel. Flatt and Scruggs receives a shout-out with the straight-ahead traditional cut of We’ll Meet Again Sweetheart. Much of the album lies farther into the contemporary or country-influenced sound, but this song lands solidly in the traditional world, helped along by banjo from Daniel Grindstaff and mandolin and tenor vocals from Bobby Osborne.
Steve Thomas has always been a favorite of mine, both for his playing and singing, and I’m glad to have a new album from him. He’s got a fine set of musicians helping him out here, both from his regular band and guests from around the bluegrass world, and it results in a tight-sounding album that listeners will want to keep on repeat.