Bluegrass – it’s all about the kids these days. Well, maybe not quite, but it does seem like there are more talented young pickers on the scene these days than we’ve ever seen before. Many of them are beginning to make the transition from solo competition performances and local family groups to participating in more widely-performing full bands. One of those is thirteen-year-old east Tennessee fiddler Carson Peters, who recently released an album debuting his new band, Carson Peters & Iron Mountain.
Peters is no stranger to the bluegrass world, or the general public. He’s played the Grand Ole Opry, appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and was featured on an episode of Little Big Shots with Steve Harvey. He’s a talented fiddler, regardless of his age. But with the new self-titled album from Carson Peters & Iron Mountain, listeners get to hear a fuller sound, thanks to picking and singing from Eric Marshall (banjo and guitar), Ben Marshall (bass), Austin Tate (mandolin), and Carson’s dad Jamie (guitar). The group works together well, offering a mostly traditional style that mixes original music with classic favorites and several Gospel numbers.
The album opens with Oak Creek, a skillfully-played original fiddle tune from Peters that starts things off on a fresh, bright note. Peters, Tate, and Eric Marshall offer strong solos accompanied by a chugging mid-tempo rhythm. It’s one of the album’s highlights, as is the band’s version of the Easter Brothers’ Heart That Will Never Break Again. Tate takes the lead here, giving a strong country-style reading to the song. The harmony vocals, as well as the fiddle and banjo backing, are certainly on point.
Peters sings lead on several songs here, showing off a clear, well-controlled voice. There’s a bouncy, banjo-guided cut of Little Georgia Rose that will have toes tapping, as will the fun version of Sadie’s Got Her New Dress On. The grassed up recording of Buck Owens’s Love’s Gonna Live Here Again is cheerful and peppy, while Kentucky Waltz is a showcase for his smooth fiddling, as well as Tate’s traditional mandolin. It also lets Peters practice his crooning, which he does quite well.
Father-and-son pair Eric and Ben Marshall contributed three originals to the project. The driving Like a Train is a strong modern traditional cut about the effects of a pretty woman on the singer’s heart. It’s a little Lonesome River Band, a little Junior Sisk, and overall, one of the album’s best. Ben Marshall sings lead on the upbeat heartbreak number Little Darlin’, as well as on Like Me in this World Without You, an earnest love song with a Lynn Morris vibe.
The band really gets to show off their vocal harmonies on two classic Gospel songs. Walking in Jerusalem is an excellent, layered a capella track, while Cryin’ Holy Unto the Lord combines musical inspiration from the J.D. Crowe & the New South version and vocal stylings from older cuts. Rounding out the album are a straightforward Old Home Place (again with shades of Crowe) and the sincere Gospel song, He’s All I Need. Penned by Mark Jackson of eastern Kentucky-based group Salvation Rain, it’s a well-written piece about the power of having Jesus in your life.
Though Carson Peters & Iron Mountain is a fairly young group (three of the five members are teenagers), each of the musicians in the band is skilled, with a good understanding of the finer points of traditional bluegrass. With several strong vocalists and songwriters, this band has a bright future ahead of them.
For more information on Carson Peters & Iron Mountain, visit them online at www.carsonandironmt.com. Their new album is available for purchase from their website.