Reunion bands are cool, right? The Bluegrass Album Band back together in Asheville, NC, a few years back, was certainly awesome, and a Johnson Mountain Boys reunion might just be my dream bluegrass concert (HINT, HINT). However, reunions usually take the form of a one-off concert, or a summer festival run, and don’t necessarily lead to albums, new music, and original songs. Flashback, however, has taken a bit of a different approach, and is currently on their third album since coming together back in 2015 as a look back at an excellent era of J.D. Crowe & the New South. Their first two albums had a number of solid radio hits and strong originals, and their newest Pinecastle release, Blues Around My Cabin, looks to have plenty more of the same.
Many of the songs here are new numbers, with several written by band members. Guitarist Richard Bennett penned (and sings) the opening track and lead single, John Henry Holliday, a pensive look at the life of the infamous Old West outlaw, Doc Holliday. The song does a nice job touching on the highlights of Holliday’s life and personality, but the chorus is especially memorable: “Don’t never take this outlaw too lightly, his 44 will put you in the ground.” Bennett’s other two originals on the album are much lighter. Dixon Farm is a bright “old home place” song focusing on the sights and sounds of an old-fashioned farm with a nice toe-tapping melody, while Virginia in the Springtime finds the singer drifting back to the country in his mind. Co-written with Shawn Lane, it’s a nice mid-tempo number guided by easy-going banjo from Stuart Wyrick.
Don Rigsby offers up two songs, one penned with Billy Droze. That one is When the Blues Come Around My Cabin Door, which steps a bit outside of the bluegrass box with a dark, bluesy groove and a few non-traditional instruments. Bill Monroe’s rules for bluegrass don’t usually include electric mandolin and shaker egg, but I like it. Rigsby does a fine job with the vocals here, smoothly moving in and out among brief instrumental solos. His other contribution is the more straightforward Will You Fold My Flag for Me, a touching nod to our armed forces and fulfilling a promise made in battle.
Queen of the Bar is one of my favorites on the album. A deep cut from Kentucky-based group the Sloas Brothers, it’s a great honky-tonk weeper about a no-good woman who won’t stay home: “Well, I thought you were an angel, but a queen you are. You’re the queen of the dance hall, and the dimly lit bar.” Don Rigsby gives it a perfect reading, calling to mind his vocals on songs like Brand New Tennessee Waltz. Also worth several listens is Wyrick’s cheery original banjo tune, Tater Valley Chimes. Wyrick’s flown a bit under the radar, but those who pay attention know he’s a banjo powerhouse.
With Blues Around My Cabin, Flashback does what the band members have done best for years, both together and in their solo careers – deliver solid, well-played bluegrass that moves back and forth across the traditional line while always sounding fresh. Bennett and Rigsby are both extremely capable vocalists, but with different enough styles and sounds that the album never gets repetitive. Along with Wyrick and Curt Chapman (bass), they’re some of the best musicians in the business. Fans of the band and of original bluegrass should enjoy.
For more information on Flashback, visit their website. Their new album is available from several online music retailers.