To many bluegrass fans, Edgar Loudermilk is likely best known for his solid bass skills, particularly thanks to his long tenure with bluegrass favorites IIIrd Tyme Out. However, over the past few years, Loudermilk has begun to come into his own as a vocalist and as a solo artist, releasing two popular albums in 2013 – the solo effort My Big Chance Tomorrow, and a duo project with Dave Adkins under the name Adkins & Loudermilk. This year, he’s officially struck out on his own with the Edgar Loudermilk Band. In July, Pinecastle Records released Loudermilk’s newest solo album (featuring the members of his band), Georgia Maple.
Of the twelve songs here, Loudermilk wrote or co-wrote eight. Several of the best reflect on home, memories, and growing up. The opening track, My Kentucky Home, is one of the album’s strongest, with a catchy melody and the familiar bluegrass tale of a man who realizes leaving home wasn’t the best decision he ever made. It has a good modern traditional sound, with Zack Autry’s mandolin particularly standing out. My Home in Caroline, written by Loudermilk and Autry along with the other two regular band members (guitarist Jeff Autry and dobro player Glen Crain), pulls together several popular bluegrass themes, as well. The singer has made a few mistakes – leaving the girl behind, rambling and gambling and so on – but now he’s trying to make things right.
The title track is another ‘home” song from Loudermilk’s pen, this time co-written with Scott Mehaffey. It’s a well-written, mid-tempo number that uses a long-standing maple tree as a touchpoint for the many life events that have taken place on the singer’s family farm. From commonplace things like plowing to more momentous occasions like the song’s narrator building a house to begin a family of his own, the maple tree has seen it all – “just like you, I have ground now of my own,” Loudermilk sings. Also well-written is Dreaming Enough to Get Me By. Written by Tony Ramey, the song will likely speak to many listeners. The singer tells of days spent “chasing bill after bill, running two steps behind” but shares that he allows himself just a little room to dream so that he doesn’t lose hope in a better future.
On the more upbeat, traditional bluegrass side of things is Trains Can’t Turn Around, co-written by Loudermilk and Trey Ward. The song’s pace is set by a banjo kick-off from guest Chris Wade, and Crain’s dobro adds an extra bluesy kick to the number. Even bluesier is the (aptly-titled) Blues Ain’t Coming Through My Door, a contribution from Loudermilk and former IIIrd Tyme Out bandmate Wayne Benson. Crain and Jeff Autry work well here together to create a nice groove, supporting Loudermilk as he declares that he’s through letting heartbreak get him down.
A pair of covers also stand out. Harvest of My Heart has a bit of a different feel from the rest of the album. Many of the versions of this song I’ve heard have featured a higher lead, but Loudermilk’s arrangement works very well. He fills the lyrics with emotion as he shares the story of a farmer who tries hard to put his family and beloved wife first in all he does. On the album, it’s followed by Bob McDill’s It Must Be Love, which Don Williams took to number one on the country charts in 1979. Following in Williams’s footsteps, Loudermilk takes a simple approach to the song, with plainspoken phrasing and stripped down, gentle instrumentation guided by Jeff Autry’s guitar. Fans of the song should enjoy this version, which actually sticks fairly close to the original.
Loudermilk has a distinctive voice in bluegrass music, and he uses it to nice effect on many songs here, especially when he’s called upon to fill his vocals with passion, such as on Harvest of My Heart. The musicians in his band are all well-respected in bluegrass circles, and the country-tinged, modern traditional grass they create here is enjoyable. Though Wade is not a regular member of the band, his banjo playing fits well with the group’s style and helps add a stronger bluegrass feel to several of the songs. Fans of Loudermilk’s previous solo work should enjoy Georgia Maple.
For more information on Edgar Loudermilk, visit his website at www.edgarloudermilk.com. His new album is available from several online music retailers.