Traditional bluegrass seems to be making a comeback these days, spurred on with the help of regional bands who are firmly based in the rules set down by Bill Monroe. Truman’s Ridge, a four piece group from the Chicago area, is one of those bands. While they mix in a few contemporary bluegrass, country, and folk influences, the sound on their latest release, Cold Cold Feeling, is largely that of the first decades of bluegrass.
This fourteen song collection is split evenly between covers and originals, with songs from Jimmy Martin and Bill Monroe mixed in with similar-sounding tunes penned by band members. One of those traditional-sounding originals is the title track, an upbeat number about a cold-hearted woman who goes running to her old love as soon as he comes back to town. Another original, Waltzing Through the Carolina Pines, is a sweet, light love song with nice mandolin solos.
Several Gospel songs are included, such as Sing Hallelujah, which has a pleasant melody and allows the band to show off their strong harmonies. The harmonica is a nice addition on this tune, as well as on the Monroe standard The Old Crossroad. This tune is one of the album’s standout tracks, along with Prayer Bells of Heaven, which ends the album on an upbeat note.
A few songs seem to have folk influences, including You’ve Gone Away, which the band gives a smooth 60’s treatment, and You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere, a Bob Dylan song with a laidback, easygoing feel and Dylan-inspired vocals. However, Truman’s Ridge really departs from the sound they set up throughout the album on one cut, a harmonica-heavy version of Folsom Prison Blues that is pretty faithful to the original. While the song is enjoyable, it doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the album.
Two original instrumentals are also included. Heather’s Gate is a mandolin tune with a bit of a Celtic feel, while Truman’s Special is a swingy piece which sounds as if it could be at home on the dobro. This tune features fun bass and guitar solos, as well.
With Cold Cold Feeling, band members Mark Fowler (mandolin), Evan Fowler (bass), Bruce Wallace (banjo and harmonica), and Steve Sarver (guitar) have created an enjoyable, well-rounded bluegrass album. The band is at its best with the straight-ahead traditional numbers, particularly the Gospel tunes, although the entire album is a solid effort.
For more information on Truman’s Ridge, visit their website at www.trumansridge.com. Their music can be purchased from various online music retailers.