“Im so dumb that I’m happy,” Steve Ludwig sings on the song of that name, one of eight impressive offerings on his new album with the Casual Hobos, Down in the Deepest Shade of Blue. In a way, the song’s an ode to innocence, although in truth, it’s a lament to lost love. It typifies Ludwig’s unpretentious approach to vintage bluegrass, a sound so authentic it sounds like it originated with a forgotten cache of classics that were only recently unearthed. Yet given the fact that this debut disc is comprised entirely of Ludwig originals, it’s an impressive introduction all the way around.
Ludwig hails from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but clearly he was able to absorb a strong hint of rural roots that he and his tight-knit combo drew from when they entered the studio to do their recording. Here again, these songs sound ageless even at the outset, and while Ludwig and company don’t veer from the template, they more than make up for that with an obvious allegiance to authenticity. Good Thing I Like Falling Too, Don’t Leave Early from the Party, Just a Friend, and the aforementioned I’m So Dumb That I’m Happy, sound like the Stanley Brothers in full flight, replete with the enthusiasm would expect to find when approaching the music with such down-home determination. So too, a song such as When You Love, Triangle Turns to Square, a tune that marries its easy lope to a high-lonesome moan, could easily have come from the pen of Hank Williams had it somehow been forgotten amidst his treasure trove of classics.
Despite Ludwig and company’s newcomer status, they’re clearly off and running and making a bid for quickly accrued recognition. Given the fact that they obviously have the right instincts, and the chops that can foster all those astute inclinations, the group should do well if they continue that tack. So back to that original premise. There’s certainly nothing dumb about the happiness shared here… and even if that was the case, it would likely be considered blissful ignorance regardless. And for that, we can be grateful indeed.