Bluegrass bands often show pride for their home state, with Tennessee, North Carolina, and of course, Kentucky, all frequently mentioned in bluegrass tunes. However, a state just slightly to the north is the subject of a new collection with bluegrass roots. Stan Keach, a Maine-based songwriter and musician whose songs have been recorded by such artists as Audie Blaylock and Special Consensus, has joined together with friends in the Sandy River Ramblers and the Maranacook String Band to release Cry of the Loon & Other Original Songs About Maine.
Cry of the Loon features fourteen original songs from Keach, including two cowrites with his wife Liz. Some of the songs share different aspects of life for “Mainers,” while others relate historical tales which may be unfamiliar to those outside of the state. Several of the songs have a bluegrass sound, while others have an old-time or folk feel.
The title track is an enjoyable mid-tempo piece in which “the lonesome cry of the loon” reminds the singer both of happier times and how lonesome she is now that the one she loves has left. Rugged Rocky Shore is a nice take on the standard bluegrass theme of returning home, but replaces the familiar images of mountains and cabins with the landscape of Maine. This song has a very traditional feel and nice harmonies. Logger’s Son is another traditional sounding tune and may put listeners in mind of the Osborne Brothers’ classic Son of a Sawmill Man – just transplanted about a thousand miles north.
Several tunes share stories from the state’s history. The Brady Gang is one of the more driving songs on the album and features armed robberies and an FBI shootout. Donn Fendler relates the tale of a young boy who survived in the Maine mountains for nine days in 1939 after being separated from his family. This song is arranged like an old-time ballad and features haunting lead vocals from Julie Churchill.
Many of the tunes on this album may sound somewhat confusing to those who live outside of the far northeastern United States. They seem to serve as inside jokes for residents of Maine, with references to L.L. Bean, moose, and unique accents. A Maine Calendah features exaggerated accents and a humorous take on Maine’s weather. Goin’ to China has some interesting harmonies and plays on the numerous towns in Maine which have names drawn from other locations around the country and world. Slow Down (You’ll Hit a Moose) has a nice groove, while Boots from L.L. Bean seems to draw inspiration from Irish tunes. While the humor in the latter two songs may be lost on those who are not familiar with Maine’s quirks, the band seems to have fun with both of them and they are sure to please fans.
Cry of the Loon is a collaboration between Keach’s band, the Sandy River Ramblers, and musicians from the Maranacook String Band, a youth band started by Keach and based out of Maranacook Community High School in Readfield, Maine. Numerous musicians are featured on the album, coming together to create a collection which can be appreciated by fans anywhere, but which those from Maine will especially enjoy.
For more information on Stan Keach and his latest work, visit his website at www.stankeachsongs.com.