True to their name, The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys sing songs about perpetual motion, always being on the move and never allowing themselves to be constrained by any particular confines. It’s a restlessness that not only informs such songs as Missing Her Has Never Slowed Me Down, Where the Grass Won’t Grow, Ramblin’ Woman, and, by degree, several other songs from their tellingly-titled new album, Never Slow Down, but their ever-evolving career as well. Evidence of their forward motion is found in the fact that in only eight years they’ve gone from being a house band at the Ole Smoky Moonshine Distillery in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, to their signing with Smithsonian Folkways Records, home to some of the most hallowed artists in folk, bluegrass, and traditional musical realms.
Or, as they allow in the aforementioned Missing Her Has Never Slowed Me Down, “I’ve always been a drifter, the highway is my home.”
Given the fact that they appear always on the move, they’ve naturally seen other activity as well. Two previous albums, a Grammy nomination and an initial appearance at the Grand Ole Opry are indicative of the fact that their ramble is more akin to a rapid ascent, one that’s propelled them to the forefront of today’s most admired ensembles. The addition of fiddler and vocalist Laura Orshaw adds another dimension to the band’s multi-faceted sound, while giving them the opportunity to add further verve and variety to a tapestry that’s rooted in tradition.
Indeed, they still manage to pay heed to their archival influences. The new album finds them covering songs by Carter Stanley (Little Glass of Wine), Ralph Stanley (Lonesome) and Hazel Dickens (Ramblin’ Woman), but so too, they manage to keep a contemporary connection as well, courtesy of Jim Lauderdale’s Old Time Angels and the unlikely murder ballad, Take My Ashes to the River, written by esteemed singer and songwriter Mark Erelli. The latter is one of several songs that finds Orshaw stepping up to the mic and asserting her presence during the proceedings.
That said, the band’s down-home sound remains intact, and the cohesive instrumental approach serves them well. Indeed, there are any number of sprightly sojourns that help assure the fact that the exhilarating Never Slow Down stays true to its title.
It may seem trite to sum up their stance so succinctly, but, in fact, The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys (and now girl as well) epitomize bluegrass at its best.