Although they have been through numerous personnel changes in just over a decade as a band, Blue Moon Rising has consistently released albums full of well-written modern traditional bluegrass tunes. With their latest album (their sixth as a band), Blue Side of the Moon, the group introduces two new members and shifts their sound a little closer to traditional country music.
The album opens, however, on a strong bluegrass note with Bad Woman, a catchy, upbeat tune about a wicked woman who left a lasting effect on the singer. Blood on the Ground has a little more of a progressive sound and raises questions about the sacrifices of war. Written and originally recorded by Knoxville-area songwriter Van Eaton, it’s a bit of a different take on combat than is usually seen in bluegrass and country music, but provides an interesting perspective about what it takes to be considered a hero.
Guitarist Chris West’s rich baritone voice steers those two tracks, as well as the classic country-influenced I Don’t Need Your Kind of Love, an enjoyable ‘good riddance’ number with nice instrumental solos. Bassist Tony Mowell also takes the lead on several tracks, including the album’s lead single, Colder December. This mellow, melancholy tune reflects on the pain of a relationship gone band and was written by the band’s new mandolin player David Mowell (Tony’s younger brother), while in a band with co-writer Cory Wharton. Tony Mowell also helped iron out the piece.
Mowell’s lead vocals are also on display on That’s Why Trains Are Lonesome, a melodic, contemporary bluegrass tune that hits on several favorite bluegrass themes, painting quite a lonesome picture. The band paints a more positive view of trains in Raised by the Railroad Line, which is influenced by, but a bit faster than, the Seldom Scene version fans might be familiar with. This track is another with country influences, including drums.
While the band rides the line between bluegrass and classic country throughout most of the album, the final two tracks plant themselves firmly on the country side of things. 4 Beers In has the feel of a classic 1960s drinking song, complete with steel guitar and country style fiddle from guests Mike “Mule” Morelock and Brandon Godman, although the tune heads toward Toby Keith territory with the crowd chorus at the end. Wish It Was You, on the other hand, wouldn’t sound out of place on an Alan Jackson album. This tale of a lonesome man on the road far from home is one of the album’s best tracks.
Blue Moon Rising, which currently consists of Chris West (guitar), Tony Mowell (bass), David Mowell (mandolin), Rusty Ferrell (banjo), and Brandon Bostic (dobro), has gathered quite a bit of positive attention from critics and fans alike for their previous albums, and will likely find the same with this latest effort. Though the more heavily produced country tracks sound a bit out of place beside of the bluegrass songs which capture the sound the band has become known for, Blue Moon Rising fans should enjoy this new project. It might also be interesting to hear a lengthier project featuring the group’s country stylings.
For more information on Blue Moon Rising, visit their website at www.bluemoonrisingband.com. Their new album is available digitally from several popular online music retailers, while physical copies can be purchased from County Sales or the band’s website.