Although I’ve heard quite a few great albums this year, from both new and established artists, one of the strongest and most enjoyable is the newest release from Richard Bennett, In the Wind Somewhere. On this, his second project for eastern Kentucky’s Lonesome Day Records, Bennett has chosen an excellent selection of songs as well as an all-star group of pickers to support his vocals and guitar.
It’s difficult to talk about Bennett without mentioning his resemblance – both in his singing style and his guitar playing – to Tony Rice. On this ten-track collection, that resemblance is all over the place: in the melodic, virtuosic playing, in the folk and jazz influences, and even in Bennett’s ability to produce excellent contemporary bluegrass music without the use of banjo. But Bennett is a fantastic musician, and this album stands on its own merits. Here, it’s all Bennett – well, except for the guest guitar from Rice on Tom’s Paxton’s gentle, folky The Last Thing on My Mind and the bluesy, jazzy album closer and guitar showcase Wayfaring Stranger.
The standouts here are many. One of the best is the title track, an ominous-sounding original from Bennett that urges listeners to be aware of their destination in life. Ron Stewart on fiddle and Adam Steffey on mandolin complement Bennett’s guitar well, with each taking fine solos. Bonnie is a thoroughly enjoyable mid-tempo take on the legendary Bonnie and Clyde. Bennett’s reading of the story is wistful and longing. The historical theme along with the addition of Shawn Lane’s harmony vocals gives the song a Blue Highway feel.
The grassiest track is probably the lead single, Stronger Every Day, a cheerful love song which speaks of the power of a woman’s love to take away pain and burdens. Georgie is a nicely updated traditional English/Appalachian ballad that tells the lonesome story of a man who, like so many other characters in bluegrass and traditional music, didn’t commit the crime he’s accused of, but has an alibi that may get him in even worse trouble.
The southern rock number Fire on the Mountain translates well to Bennett’s brand of bluegrass. He and his band capture the song’s desperation well. Sting’s Fields of Gold also receives a nice treatment here. Like several other songs on the album, it’s gentle and just a bit mournful. Although these, and several others, are cover songs, they’re not often heard in bluegrass, which gives this album a fresh feel.
With In the Wind Somewhere, Bennett has put together one of those albums that it’s possible to put on repeat and listen to all day long. The musicianship is excellent, and guitar fans will surely enjoy Bennett’s many extended solos throughout the album as well as the guest contributions from Rice. Stewart, Steffey, Lane and Mark Schatz (bass) provide fine backup, as well.
For more information on Richard Bennett and his new album, visit www.lonesomeday.com. In the Wind Somewhere is available from a number of online music retailers.