If you are looking to start 2021 off with an album packed full of bluegrass all-stars, Justin Moses’s brand-new release from Mountain Fever Records, Fall Like Rain, would be an excellent place to look. Moses, a skilled multi-instrumentalist himself, calls on a selection of former bandmates and other bluegrass greats to support him here, creating some of the finest modern bluegrass you’re likely to hear.
Several songs from the album have already made a splash as radio singles, including Between the Lightning and the Thunder from writers Thomm Jutz and Charley Stefl. Moses’s dobro and banjo open the song on an ominous note, with Dan Tyminski contributing a strong lead vocal. The song is an excellent fit for Tyminski’s voice and style – dark, with a bit of a sense of doom hanging over everything. Radio has also welcomed the title track, an Eric Clapton cover suggested to Moses several years back by Keith Garrett. Garrett had told Moses he thought the song would make a good bluegrass song, and it does, with a lonesome vocal from Justin and a slowly building rhythm that leads to soaring solos from Sierra Hull and Stuart Duncan, among others.
Many of the tracks were penned by Moses, including several instrumentals. Taxland is a spicy, Grisman-influenced mandolin duet between Moses and Hull, with Bryan Sutton, Michael Cleveland, and Barry Bales lending support. Sutton and Cleveland take their own sizzling breaks, but the mandolins are the stars of the show here. Wise & Born proves Moses knows his way around a Weissenborn guitar, nicely contrasting with bright mandolin and guitar from Hull and Cody Kilby, respectively. Locust Hill ends things on a high note. Moses jumps right in on banjo and the band doesn’t let up until the very end, racing along at a breakneck speed.
Another highlight on the album is country cover My Baby’s Gone (recorded a few decades ago by both The Judds and Sawyer Brown), with an awesome lead vocal appearance from Del McCoury. As with Tyminski’s appearance earlier on the album, this song and its arrangement fit McCoury perfectly. His no-nonsense phrasing on the chorus is excellent: “The moon is down, it still ain’t dawn, the world is dark, and my baby’s gone.” Shawn Lane was also a great choice for the vocals on Looking for a Place, penned by Moses, Thomm Jutz, and Peter Cooper. The stripped-down arrangement (just guitars from Moses and Lane, and Jerry Douglas on dobro) gives the song a lilting, melancholy feel that would feel right at home beside Lane’s best Blue Highway work.
Moses has done a fine job putting together Fall Like Rain. The guest vocalists he has chosen are perfectly suited to the songs on which they appear, and his own vocals are strong as well. The instrumentation is top-notch, and there’s a little something to please almost everyone on the bluegrass spectrum, from traditional to more progressive. I foresee several tracks here showing up come awards time.
For more information on Justin Moses, visit his website. His new album can be purchased from several online music retailers.