Miles Between is the second release from Unspoken Tradition, who describe themselves as a working class bluegrass band from North Carolina’s western Piedmont. Like their first album, Simple Little Town, this one offers a blend of original material written within the band, and songs from today’s top bluegrass songwriters.
These guys land somewhere in between two other well-known bands from western North Carolina. They are more consistently grassy than Steep Canyon Rangers, but slightly more outside than Balsam Range. Like those two others, Unspoken Tradition features multiple lead vocalists giving them a good deal of variety in their sound.
The record kicks off with a driving bluesy number, Point Of Rocks Station, from Paula Breedlove and Brad Davis. It’s a train song sung by bass player Lee Shuford. His slightly gruff, tight-throated style adds to the grittiness of the song, as it does on mandolinist Ty Gilpin’s Been In Love Before and his own Rivers That I’ve Crossed. That latter has a very Balsam Rangey vibe that should have an appeal for bluegrass radio, while Ty’s song has more of an old time, pentatonic feel.
The bulk of the lead singing comes courtesy of guitarist Audie McGinnis whose smoother, country-inflected voice is perfect for tender songs like Losers Like Me (Ty Gilpin) and Who Will Sing (McGinnis/Gilpin), a purely lovely song of remembrance for those who have gone on with a very traditional call-and-response chorus.
Shuford’s One More Drink is a good ol’ barroom drinking song, again with a bluesy feel. As these songs often go, the narrator loses it all due to his weakness for alcohol. The album’s lone instrument is Rattlesnake Run, which showcases Gilpin’s mandolin prowess, along with that of fiddler Tim Gardner and banjo man, Zane McGinnis.
A standout track is the project’s first single, The Bullet, written and sung by Audie. It’s a thoughtful song, told from the standpoint of a bullet that counsels the user to think hard before firing since he can’t be put put back in the barrel after being sent on his way. Also strong is One Mule Plow from Patrick McDougall, which extols the virtue of the simple life with a catchy, repetitive melody.
For a relatively new group like Unspoken Tradition, signs of growth and maturity from one record to the next are the mark of artists on the rise. And we certainly see that here. Expect more of the same as they continue going forward.
Miles Between contains 10 solid tracks, well played and sung by a better than capable group. It is available wherever bluegrass CDs and downloads are sold.