The cover of the new CD from The Grascals shows the six bandmates around a table holding seven coffee mugs. It’s almost as if they’re waiting for you to join them.
You can call it truth in advertising. Before Breakfast is a very welcoming – and fun – collection from one of the most consistent bands on the bluegrass circuit. If you don’t feel invited to the table after listening to these songs, trust me, it’s not them, it’s you.
Before Breakfast is a play on the timeless fiddle tune, Whiskey Before Breakfast, which forms the melodic backbone to Clear Corn Liquor, the last of 12 songs on the CD, with lyrics from Tim Stafford and Bobby Starnes, and a fun vocal by guitarist Terry Eldredge.
There is much fun and frivolity to be found here, including Beer Tree, written by the legendary Harley Allen with Robert Ellis Orrall, and Lynchburg Chicken Run, written by band members Danny Roberts and Adam Haynes. Suffice it to say, this particular Lynchburg Chicken races along, propelled by Roberts’ mandolin, Haynes’ fiddle and Kristin Scott Benson’s banjo on steroids.
But there are somber and elegant songs as well, including Gospel numbers I’ve Been Redeemed, and He Took Your Place, written by Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, and a beautiful three-four time There is You, written by Kelsi Harrigill of Flatt Lonesome.
Scattered about, and delivered by one of the cleanest-sounding bands in bluegrass today, are such delights as Sleepin’ With The Reaper, written by the reigning queen of dark songs, Becky Buller, and Grant Williams; Delia, driven by Benson’s banjo and Hynes’s fiddle, written by Jon Weisberger, Charlie Chamberlain and Charles R. Humphreys III; and Lost and Lonesome, written by Paul Overstreet and Billy Smith and sung with passion by John Bryan.
But the showstopper, to these ears, is Pathway Of Teardrops, a classic from the pens of Wayne Walker, Webb Pierce and June Hazlewood. This song was big for the Osborne Brothers, and covered expertly by Alison Krauss, Rhonda Vincent and others. It takes a certain amount of courage to tackle a song with such a provenance, but the trio of Eldredge, Bryan and bassist Terry Smith nail it, right down to the hair-raising Osborne Brothers ending.
After all of the accolades and award nominations the band has collected over the years, the excellence found here probably shouldn’t come as a surprise. At the same time, it’s great to find no evidence that The Grascals plan to rest on their laurels anytime soon.