Flatt Lonesome Brings Beauty to the Darkness

Flatt Lonesome’s outstanding new Mountain Home Music release, Silence in These Walls, should come with a warning label: “Proceed with caution if you’ve just had a fight with your significant other, are lonely or feeling lost in the world. You will cry.”

This is the band’s darkest project yet, leaving one question lingering after multiple listens: How can so many songs that drip of heartbreak and despair be so beautiful and so easy to listen to?

That beauty won’t surprise anyone who has heard Flatt Lonesome before. There’s a reason these relative newcomers own more IBMA awards than many bands that been around for much longer. The vocal trio of Charli Robertson, Buddy Robertson and Kelsi Robertson Harrigill is one of the solidest in bluegrass, and the siblings don’t disappoint here. All three take turns singing lead, and the others slide gracefully into harmonies. They are definitely at the top of their vocal game on these 12 cuts. Don’t be surprised if a third straight IBMA award for vocal group of the year is in the cards next year.

The picking is solid, too. Again, no surprise. But this time, the song selection gives Michael Stockton a chance to shine as bright as the vocalists. There’s no better instrument than the dobro to play sad, and on track after track, his wrings out seemingly every ounce of emotion.

I don’t know too many other bands that could pull off what Flatt Lonesome did here. The songs are slow or mid-tempo, with only closing number You’re the Reason reaching the vicinity of 120 beats per minute. And even the requisite couple Gospel songs with messages of better times coming seem tinged with melancholy.

But it works, even after a steady diet of titles such as It’s Just Sad, Cry Oh Cry, Highway of Pain and Gently Please Tell Me Goodbye. The gorgeous vocals are part of the reason. Song selection helps, too. There’s no filler.

The best songs on the CD have banjo man Paul Harrigill’s name on them as writer or co-writer. These include Gently Please Tell Me Goodbye and I’m Not Afraid to Be Alone, both solo writes, and Cry Oh Cry and Falling, written with his wife and bandmate Kelsi. At least one of their names appears in the writing credits on seven of the songs.

I’ll be honest. After two days of fairly constant listening, I occasionally longed for the band to race into something and tear it up. But then the next slow song would come on, the voices would soar and I’d be back on board.

It took some guts to buck convention. But it’s clear to me that Silence in These Walls is a stellar record that will showcase the band’s vocal prowess in live shows and will attract new fans when some of the cuts slide into regular rotation on the radio.

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About the Author

David Morris

David Morris, an award-winning songwriter and journalist, has written for Bluegrass Today since its inception. He joined its predecessor, The Bluegrass Blog, in 2010. His 40-year career in journalism included more than 13 years with The Associated Press, a stint as chief White House correspondent for Bloomberg News, and several top editing jobs in Washington, D.C. He is a life member of IBMA and the DC Bluegrass Union. He and co-writers won the bluegrass category in the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest at MerleFest in 2015.