Straight-ahead bluegrassers may recall Richard Bennett’s Tony Rice-like work from his years spent with J.D. Crowe and the New South, where he was featured on the stellar Flashback record. Now, having recorded three solo projects with Rebel Records and performed with the likes of Mike Auldridge and Jimmy Gaudreau over the past few years, Richard Bennett is back at it again, armed with a first-rate list of guest musicians including Rickie Simpkins, Harold Nixon, Danny Barnes, Shayne Bartley, Ron Stewart, Joe Sharp, and J.D. Crowe.
Last Train From Poor Valley, Bennett’s latest effort for Lonesome Day Records, features songs from a widespread group of sources, pulling from the catalogs of artists such as Merle Haggard, Gordon Lightfoot, and John Hartford (just to name a few). The twelve song collection makes for a great representation of this artist’s talents in writing and performing. From straight ahead “1-4-5 drive” tunes like the fan favorites Handsome Molly and Wrong Road Again (which feature the immediately recognizable banjo work of J.D. Crowe) to jazz influenced pieces, this album seems to have something for everyone. In fact, his light and airy arrangement of the classic tune Tennessee Waltz is one of the best I’ve heard in quite some time.
Other standout tracks include the album’s opening number, Haggard’s immediately recognizable Workin’ Man’s Blues, and an obviously Rice-influenced version of Ray Charles’ hit Georgia on My Mind. The record’s title track, Last Train from Poor Valley, is tight and subtly arranged to display wonderful trading back and forth between fiddle and guitar parts. Bennett’s incredible guitar work also shines on his two self-penned instrumentals Roan Mountain Rag and From The Top.
Be careful though, and don’t just eject this disc when the twelfth track fades out – there’s a great surprise on the end. A bonus track performed in what Bennett calls “Head On Style” appears just before the album comes to a close. There’s just one problem, though. To replay the track, you have to rewind it instead of just skipping right to it to hear it again. In other words, make sure and check out Leaving’s Heavy on My Mind.
More information on Richard Bennett’s latest release can be found by contacting Lonesome Day Records at www.lonesomeday.com.
The CD is also available for purchase from iTunes and Amazon.