For a musician living in Texas, Geoff Union certainly spans the country in his newest release, Cold as Steel. This Austin-based guitarist and vocalist sings about North Carolina, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Colorado and yes, Texas, on his first solo project, out now from Shining Castle Music. Union has created an album full of original material that is sure to catch the ear of fans of modern bluegrass and acoustic music.
The eight tracks on this album are energetic, capturing the listener’s attention from the very first song. While the lyrics are sometimes vague (perhaps intentionally), the songs include vivid images. Union (and his cowriter on two tunes, Jim Harris) tell stories but don’t give away every detail. The fast-paced opener, Devil’s Card, engages listeners with the story of a man with a gun who’s up to no good. Water in the Well offers a take on the idea that the grass is always greener on the other side, in which the singer is setting off from Texas for new opportunities elsewhere. Even though he doesn’t know exactly what might be waiting for him, he still knows that “whichever way you’re headed, there’s water in the well.”
One of the album’s standout songs is the title track. Union wrote Cold as Steel about his grandfather, who worked for Bethlehem Steel and whose quick mind allowed him to use a flood to help him steal machinery and start a new life in North Carolina. Even though Union’s grandfather’s story probably isn’t well-known outside of his family, it’s just unusual enough to be compelling.
Two other songs also cover somewhat historical topics, also with an illegal twist. Spirit of ’94 is a traditional-sounding tune about the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794 in western Pennsylvania, when farmers created an uprising against a new whiskey tax. Lewis Redmond has a Celtic flair and tells the story of a legendary moonshiner from western North Carolina. These two songs are both interesting, but may be somewhat confusing to listeners who are not familiar with the stories behind them.
Union has also composed two instrumentals for the album: the jazzy, swingy, David Grisman-influenced Half Past Zero and the much more traditional Fannie at the Front Door. These two songs, along with the rest of the music on the album, are performed well by obviously experienced musicians. Union’s Tony Rice-inspired guitar picking is joined by Billy Bright (mandolin and mandola), Steven Crow (bass), Dom Fisher (bass), Mark Maniscalco (banjo), and Ricky Turpin (fiddle). Union’s wife Christina also contributes harmony vocals throughout the album.
For more information about Geoff Union and his new album, visit his website at www.geoffunion.com.
Cold as Steel can be purchased from CDBaby and Union’s website or downloaded from iTunes and Amazon.