Awake, ye lovers of traditional bluegrass music and take heed. For released to you this year is High Fidelity, a young band that plays and sings it in the old time way.
Few things are more remarkable to me than a group of musicians who can accurately and authentically recreate a musical style that has been eclipsed by time in our popular culture. In order to even learn how to do it requires many hours of intense study, listening to old recordings, plus the ability to remove from your mind the many stylistic flourishes and common idioms that have come into fashion in the years since. It’s not as easy as it may sound, especially when accomplished by artists who were not even born when the format was in its hey day.
High Fidelity has succeeded in replicating the look, the sound, and the feel of the bluegrass and country music of the 1950s and ’60s. They perform it on instruments from that period, and even capture it using recording techniques in use at that time. Even the cover for their new album, Hi-Fi Bluegrass, finds them in clothing appropriate for the era.
And they’ve chosen songs from that generation as well, taken from the catalogs of Reno & Smiley, Charlie Monroe, The Stanley Brothers, The Marshall Family and other popular bluegrass acts of the day. All are recorded simply, mostly live in the studio and you get the vibe of a lost master created 60 years ago and only recently rediscovered – but with better audio, i.e., high fidelity.
The music is based around the playing and singing of Jeremy Stephens and Corrina Rose Logston. Their vocal duets shine throughout, with Jeremy primarily taking the lead, though Corrina gets a couple of highlight numbers like My Empty Arms and Sinner Read The Bible. The former is a happy little song cut by Rebe & Rabe in the early ’50s, which has double banjo here substituted for the twin fiddles in the original, and the latter a Gospel vocal trio from The Stewart Family which she sings beautifully.
Jeremy sings the bulk of the songs, and carries them off in the exact style that serves them best. His earnest voice delivers fine versions of The Swanee River Boys’ I Ain’t Got Time, Reno & Smiley’s Another Day, The McCormick Brothers’ I’m Happy To Know, and The Stanley Brothers’ Cry From The Cross.
Stephens plays guitar and Logston fiddle, assisted by Kurt Stephenson on banjo and Vickie Vaughan on bass. Daniel Amick plays mandolin. All are able pickers, especially Stephenson whose banjo stylings switch from a Don Reno focus on most of the tracks to a Ralph Stanley vibe for Cry From The Cross and I’m Lost, I’ll Never Find The Way, on which he sings lead. A first-rate banjo player himself, Jeremy adds the second banjo on My Empty Arms.
Other strong numbers include You Never Mentioned Him To Me, a Marshall Family classic, and strong instrumental versions of Bully Of The Town and Lost Indian.
I’ve had the pleasure to know Corrina and Jeremy for several years, since they were both in their teens. Their interest in early country and bluegrass is not a new found passion, but has been a part of their lives for quite some time. When I first met Jeremy maybe 15 years ago, he was doing an absolutely spot-on representation of Don Reno in a band called Shallow Creek, though he’s doing the Red Smiley licks now with High Fidelity.
Hi-Fi Bluegrass is not in wide distribution, so you won’t find it in iTunes or Amazon, but it is available at County Sales, or you can obtain a copy directly from the band. To do so, either contact them by email at email@example.com for ordering information, or send a check for $18 with your shipping address to:
P. O. Box 261
Whites Creek, TN 37189
Payment can also be made by PayPal using the above email address.
Trust me… If you love old time bluegrass and early country music, you’ll want this CD.