Perhaps the most difficult problems facing bands of any genre is the desire to grow, stay relevant, honor one’s identity, satisfy fans, and make every project better than the last. That last issue has resulted in a bit of a gap between bluegrass powerhouse and Grammy-nominee Audie Blaylock and his band Redline’s last two projects, but the wait is over, and fans are liable to think it worth the wait.
At all their upcoming personal appearances, Redline will be selling their latest project, The Road That Winds, in spite of an official release date of July 10. This project signifies yet another strong step in the evolution of the group, which marks banjoist Evan Ward’s return to the band, joining Blaylock on guitar, fiddle favorite Patrick McAvinue, and bassist Reed Jones. It is this fusing of the band’s tradition with its future that makes this latest effort, as Blaylock recently suggested, “our best work to date.”
Redline’s sound, saturated in the spirit of first generation bluegrass icons, is on full display with The Road That Winds. When that same spirit that spoke to bluegrass’ early followers with culturally-relevant original material framed in a familiar musical context is brought into today, the result is a deep, personal connection to the music for the artist and listener alike. And for good reason.
This project is extremely personal for the band. Blaylock wrote or co-wrote two of the tracks on The Road That Winds in addition to providing solid guitar playing and sincere, honestly-delivered vocals. McAvinue handles a big chunk of the arranging, including the standout instrumental that closes the record and features his inventive fiddling and Ward’s relentless banjo work. Jones then wrote or co-wrote four of the album’s tracks, supplying a cohesive foundation on the bass and rounding out the authentic vibe of the work.
But the personal connection doesn’t end with the songwriting and musicianship. They kept most of the project in-house, with Jones supplying the photography and design for the record, which documents the band’s own “road that winds,” taking them from California to France and most places in between, all represented in the artwork for the project. The recording was all done at Scott Vestal’s Digital Underground Studio with the support of Tom Mindte and Patuxent Records, with whom the band has shared a passion for real and traditional music and a long friendship, now blossoming into the business partnership that made this kind of a record possible.
So has The Road That Winds upped the ante for Redline? You’ll need to listen and find out for yourself. But it feels less like a professional obligation and more like an invitation to journey alongside the guys on The Road That Winds.
Look for the album in July wherever you find bluegrass music, or at any Audie Blaylock and Redline show. They’ll be at Festival of the Bluegrass this weekend in Kentucky and at Bean Blossom and Sommerville coming up soon.