Lonesome State of Mind – Blue Highway

If there’s one word that could sum up Blue Highway, it’s consistency. The beloved bluegrass powerhouse has maintained a consistent personnel with only a select few lineup changes over its thirty year history. They’ve maintained a consistently high standard with their signature vocal harmonies and distinctive instrumentalism, and they never fail to bring exciting and fresh original material to the table. Lonesome State of Mindthe band’s first studio release in five years, captures all of these consistent elements in spades.

The album kicks off with the title track, Lonesome State of Mind. Cowritten by Tim Stafford and Bobby Starnes, this song was a mainstay of the Bluegrass Today Weekly Airplay Charts in 2023. It’s very easy to see why. Combining a driving melody alongside a captivating story, this song has all the ingredients of a typical Blue Highway song. Along with Stafford on guitar and vocals, Wayne Taylor on bass and vocals, and Shawn Lane on mandolin, fiddle, guitar, and vocals, the band also consists of Jason Burleson on banjo, mandolin and guitar, and Gary Hultman on resophonic guitar and vocals.

The North Side by Shawn Lane, his brother Chad Lane, and Gerald Ellenburg is a haunting track that features Shawn and his son Grayson singing together. As one can expect with family harmony, the two sound extremely alike. This type of vocal harmony is especially appropriate for a song that was inspired by a winter day in Scott County, Virginia where the Lanes spent their formative years.

On The Roof of the World by Tim Stafford is a fictional tale about a Tibetan sherpa that never made it off of Mount Everest and is missing his home. Gary Hultman’s dobro work particularly stands out on this track. It’s obvious that the work of Blue Highway’s original resophonic guitarist, Rob Ickes, has inspired much of his vocabulary on the instrument.

I’ve Had Enough Missouri For A While, by Stafford and Thomm Jutz, is a true standout. It tells the tale of a man who finally discovers after several relocations that he “knows what the problem is and it ain’t geography.” The lyrics are a brilliant example of the songwriting talent contained within Blue Highway. It’s another one of those songs that’s a perfect addition to the band’s growing repertoire. 

Emerson and Bull Moose are both instrumental tracks. The former, written by Jason Burleson, was named for and inspired by the playing of legendary banjoist Bill Emerson. The latter by Shawn Lane is a fine demonstration of his clean, yet powerful approach to the mandolin.

Sleepless Nights, Endless Tears, Broken Heart features Gary Hultman on lead vocals. Cowritten by Stafford and Mark Bumgarner, this traditionally oriented piece is a great match for Hultman’s voice.

Randall Hayes by Stafford and Rick Lang is a dark tale about a man who was murdered, then buried in a shallow grave. This is another one of those songs where the melody fits the lyrical content of the song perfectly.

It would more than likely be tough for any listener to pick a single favorite from Lonesome State of Mind. Blue Highway has shown once again their thorough originality within this release. Every song on this album is a winner. All twelve have earned their rightful place alongside the classic material that fans have come to know and love over the last thirty years.

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About the Author

Braeden Paul

Braeden Paul has been involved in various capacities of bluegrass music. A Texas native, Paul has been part of several Dallas-based bands as a mandolinist. He also serves on the board of directors of the Southwest Bluegrass Club in Grapevine, TX. As a writer, Braeden has also contributed numerous music reviews to the Bluegrass Society of America Facebook page, and is the co-author of Texas Bluegrass History: High Lonesome on the High Plains.