What began as a house band for Dee’s Country Cocktail Lounge in East Nashville has grown into one of the most exciting ensembles in bluegrass music today. Made up of industry veterans, East Nash Grass‘ sophomore album, Last Chance to Win on Mountain Fever Records, is full of skilled musicianship, strong material, and fantastic arrangements.
The project opens with the title track, Last Chance to Win. Written by Christian Ward, this song about laying everything on the line features great duet singing from mandolinist Harry Clark and resophonic guitarist Gaven Largent. This is one of several vocal combinations featured on the recording.
I Almost Told Her written by guitarist James Kee tells of assumptions being made rather than viewing the realities of what’s happening within a romantic relationship. Featuring Kee on lead vocals along with Largent and fiddler Maddie Denton on harmony vocals, this track also includes great instrumental performances from Cory Walker on banjo, Jeff Picker on bass, and Harry Clark on mandolin.
One of the true standout tracks on this project is Papa’s on the Housetop. First recorded by blues singer and piano player Leroy Carr in 1931, East Nash Grass gives this song a strong swing feel. Sung by Harry Clark, this particular piece is the record’s best example of his vocal talent.
Another track worthy of mention is Jenna McGaugh. Written by Maddie Denton, this particular tune shows off her incredible fiddling in spades. This piece also does a great job of showcasing the other band members’ instrumental abilities.
When You Come Home by Theo MacMillan displays yet another vocal combination from East Nash Grass. This time featuring Denton on lead vocals, Gaven Largent, and Harry Clark on harmony vocals, this is a great example of just how versatile the group is on terms of their singing and harmonic arrangements.
Starlet Iris written by Harry Clark, is a track that’s somewhat of a cross between bluegrass and old time music. Sung by Clark with harmony vocals from James Kee, this is a tale of a twisted romance. Nonetheless it has a strong, catchy melody.
Love Slippin’ Away is East Nash Grass’ take on a country classic. Written by Bill Anderson, and made a hit by Jean Shepard after she recorded it in 1973, the band performs this song in a wonderful traditional bluegrass vein with strong vocals from Kee, Clark, and Cory Walker.
The closing track Railroadin’ & Gamblin’ is an energetic rendition of a song written and recorded by Uncle Dave Macon in 1938. Featuring Gaven Largent on lead vocals, this piece gives what’s already a strong effort a really powerful finish. The track demonstrates the group’s chemistry remarkably well.
Last Chance to Win is a wonderful release from beginning to end. East Nash Grass not only has great cohesiveness, but also loads of versatility. This project is filled with universally compelling material. It’s definitely one that will get repeated listening from me, and I’m sure many others as well.