It’s difficult to name a band that is more all-around talented than The Boxcars. Band members have numerous IBMA and Grammy Awards, and have shared the stage with most of the top names in bluegrass. Their first two releases as a group helped earn them two consecutive IBMA Instrumental Group of the Year awards. Their latest album, It’s Just a Road, is sure to attract the same level of attention, if not more. This twelve-track collection is filled with top-level bluegrass all the way through.
The band starts things off right with a couple of twists on the traditional bluegrass love of rambling. The first track is an excellent version of Jerry Reed’s You Took All the Ramblin’ Out of Me, which finds the singer settling down with a woman whose “country love and country cooking” have made him forget every urge to ramble he ever had. Bluegrass isn’t exactly known for its love songs, but if more of them were like this, it might be. This tune is followed by the title cut, a Keith Garrett original that downplays the allure of wandering. Garrett’s straightforward delivery fits the song’s lyrics well.
The Boxcars have proven their expertise at updating traditional songs (see Born in Covington, one of the best songs on last year’s All In, for proof), and they continue the trend here. The group knows how to mix just the right amount of the song’s original sound with the feel of modern traditional bluegrass. Adam Steffey takes the lead on a bouncy cover of the old blues standard, Trouble in Mind, which also features a fun bass solo from Harold Nixon. The group puts fresh spins on two Carter Family songs, as well. Coal Miner’s Blues has great banjo throughout, while I’m Leaving You This Lonesome Song has been reinvented as a driving traditional bluegrass tune, complete with fierce mandolin playing and fine fiddling.
Southern Train, a lonesome, country-influenced song featuring John Bowman on lead vocals, is one of the album’s standout songs, with its tale of a man who wants nothing more than to make it home one last time. Ron Stewart’s The Devil Held the Gun is another worthy of your attention. Garrett provides lead vocals for this dark, classic-sounding song about a woman whose love story comes to a disastrous end.
The Boxcars are certainly masters of modern traditional bluegrass, and they don’t disappoint with It’s Just a Road. Bowman, Garrett, Nixon, Steffey, and Stewart have been described over and over as bluegrass music’s newest supergroup. Those who pick up a copy of this album will be hard-pressed to disagree.
For more information on the Boxcars and their new album, visit their website at www.theboxcars.com. It’s Just a Road is out now from Mountain Home Music and can be purchased from a variety of online music retailers.