Alex Hibbitts’ Depression Lies Studio in Sevierville, TN is quickly becoming a go-to spot for up-and-coming bluegrass artists whose music leans toward the popular country-tinged modern traditional style. Recent solo projects by Matt Wallace, Cody Shuler, and Hibbitts himself were all recorded there, and the Darrell Webb Band has been spotted there lately working on their new album. Another recent release that was recorded at Depression Lies is the debut album from Evan Maynard, a young guitarist and mandolin player from Lebanon, Ohio (just outside of Cincinnati).
Maynard’s Lonesome Road is somewhat of a family affair, with dad Andy providing harmonies on most of the songs and lead on two, and brother Austin playing upright bass throughout the album. Rounding out the instrumentation are contributions from Darrell Webb (banjo and harmony vocals), Tim Crouch (fiddle), Brandon Green (banjo), Jeff Partin (dobro), Stephen Burwell (fiddle), and Hibbitts (harmony vocals). Overall, the album is a very nice effort, with strong musicianship, vocals, and songwriting.
Maynard sings lead on most of the songs here, and he has a strong, smooth country-style voice that fits the modern traditional style of bluegrass well. He also wrote seven of the album’s twelve tracks, which range from love-gone-wrong to gotta-go-home to Gospel. One of the best is the opening track, Northern Town, a well-written mid-tempo number about a man who has had to move north to find work. It gives a bit of a more personal touch to the traditional “had to leave the homeplace” song, as it tells of the singer’s anger that the winter weather has prevented him from traveling home for the weekend. Another enjoyable song is A Little Harder Every Time, a meditation on the idea of leaving that opens with the thought that it “doesn’t matter where you go, you’ll always leave somewhere.” Crouch’s excellent fiddling adds a nice melancholy feel to the song.
Fans of hard-driving grass will enjoy the title track, which is kicked into gear by some powerful banjo from Webb. Way Back in the Hills doesn’t feature Webb, but sounds like something he might record (particularly Maynard’s mandolin opening), with a dark, urgent feel. Coward’s Choice is the story of a Civil War soldier who is faced with the choice to stay with his unit or desert the army so he can see his dying son one last time. The song has some nice guitar work from Maynard and fine fiddling from Crouch, and offers an interesting take on the war and its effects on the lives of everyday folks.
Of the covers on the album, two will likely be most familiar to bluegrass fans. Little Mountain Church House was written by Carl Jackson and Jim Rushing and previously recorded by Doyle Lawson, among others. Maynard’s version is solid and smooth. Birmingham Turnaround was popularized as a country song by Keith Whitley, though Kenny and Amanda Smith also recorded it on their most recent album. This song is well-suited to Maynard’s vocal style, and it is one of the most enjoyable numbers on the album.
Though Maynard is likely a new name to most bluegrass fans, his debut album proves that he is a strong musician with a bright bluegrass future ahead. The album can be purchased from most popular online music retailers.