Since founding the Dukes of Drive several years back, Terry Baucom has kept the charts hot with a series of number one singles released in advance of the band’s debut album. When you have the most played bluegrass song in the nation two years in a row (The Rock in 2015 and Around the Corner in 2016), you know you’ve got to be doing something right. Fourth and Goal, the group’s new release on the John Boy & Billy label, only adds to that already impressive start. The ten-song collection is a well-rounded effort, filled with strong modern traditional instrumentation and vocals.
The Rock, penned by Nashville songwriter Thom Case, took bluegrass radio by storm when it was released in 2015. With its positive message of support and love, an enjoyable, mid-tempo melody, and captivating vocals from mandolin player Joey Lemons, it’s a nice slice of contemporary bluegrass. Around the Corner has a strong lesson within its lyrics, as well. The Milan Miller/Thomm Jutz number urges listeners to take chances and live life to the fullest: “You never know what’s waiting around the corner, but don’t let that slow you down.” Baucom’s easygoing banjo is a perfect accompaniment to Lemons’ sincere lead vocals.
Carolina Any Day is another good song from Miller and Jutz in the same mid-tempo contemporary vein, featuring a classic bluegrass theme. The singer is tired of trying to get ahead in the city and longs to exchange the noise and traffic for the hills of his Carolina home. A light, folky melody and clear guitar work from Will Jones makes it reminiscent of early eighties Tony Rice. Going home is also the subject of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, which finds the singer hurrying back to east Tennessee when the woman he loves proves to mean more to him than his Nashville dreams. The urgency in the singer’s voice matches the song’s tale of rushing down the interstate nicely.
Also strong are a pair of songs from Virginia songwriter, Chris Burton. What Will They Say About You is an old time Gospel number, with the traditional guitar/mandolin accompaniment and Baucom’s signature bass vocals, though taken at a faster speed than many such songs. On The Road Forever also brings back the sound of three part harmony throughout, verses and choruses alike, on one about missing the one you love while working on the road. Both nicely break up the solo verse/harmony chorus format.
Baucom kicks it into high gear with the title track, a rushing, driving take on making choices that could change your life, written by Paula Breedlove and Brad Davis. It’s another song with a message, wrapped neatly into an extended football metaphor – “you can choose to sit it out, or you can choose to shine, when it’s fourth and goal and overtime.” Even those less athletically-inclined bluegrass fans should agree that it’s a neat concept for a song. The musicians also get a workout with Baucom’s instrumental Winslow, a bouncy modern traditional romp. Baucom’s banjo has, as always, impeccable timing and tone, while Lemons offers crisp mandolin, Jones provides intricate guitar work and Joe Hannabach holds it all together with solid bass.
Terry Baucom has always had good taste when it comes to the music his bands release, and without even listening to the first song, you know you’ll get driving music in a traditional-leaning style. Fourth and Goal is no different. The Dukes of Drive prove themselves to be a tight band with particularly strong vocal abilities who know a well-written song when they see one.
For more information on Terry Baucom and the Dukes of Drive, visit their website at www.terrybaucom.com. Their new album is available from several online retailers.