When banjo players release solo albums, they often choose to showcase their skill and speed with a selection of instrumental tracks. They tear into Scruggs tunes, offer unique originals, and perhaps throw in some more progressive tracks for good measure. The focus is on the banjo. Terry Baucom, however, has chosen to go in a different direction with his most recent release, Never Thought of Looking Back.
While Baucom’s well-known banjo skills are most certainly on display throughout the album, the songwriting and vocals are highlighted just as much, if not more. Celebrated songwriters such as Tim Stafford and Jon Weisberger have contributed songs, and the singing is largely done by a who’s who of today’s favorite bluegrass male vocalists. The twelve-track collection leans toward the traditional side of things, and Baucom is supported throughout by a talented band featuring some of bluegrass music’s best.
Baucom has been called “The Duke of Drive,” and he shows listeners why on several tracks. His banjo provides a nice opening for the album, kicking off the Milan Miller number Carry Me Back to Carolina. This tune, one of the album’s best, is a classic bluegrass story of a man planning to return to his home in the hills of Carolina, with a nice upbeat feel. Buddy Melton provides lead vocals here, which adds to the feeling that the song would fit in nicely on a Balsam Range project. The closing track, I’ll Be Going Home, is fairly similar in several ways – it’s another of the album’s more upbeat tracks. Melton covers the lead vocals, and the singer shares his yearning to return home. This time, he’s a musician on the road, ready to return home after his last show.
Larry Cordle sings Long Enough to Make Me Blue, an enjoyable number about a woman who, although she promises to stay true, is (as the singer says) “wearin’ out your welcome making tracks across my heart.” John Cowan takes the lead on a bluesy cover of Bill Monroe’s No One But My Darlin’, with his signature vocal style putting a bit of a modern spin on this traditional tune. Sam Bush and Aubrey Haynie offer fine solos on mandolin and fiddle respectively.
Baucom and company go for a more country sound on I’ve Been Around Enough to Know, a wistful song about a man who knows the woman he’s with doesn’t love him, but decides to find comfort in her arms anyway. The lead vocals on this track are provided by John Schneider, in an almost-spoken, classic country style. Although Schneider is best known for his time spent portraying Bo Duke on The Dukes of Hazzard, he also had a second career as a country singer in the 1980s and took this song to number one in 1984. It sounds much the same here, although without the over-the-top 80’s production.
The best known song from the album is probably What’ll I Do, another cut from Milan Miller that recently earned Baucom the 2013 IBMA Recorded Event of the Year. There’s a toe-tapping banjo intro with a nice groove that continues throughout the song. Sam Bush’s vocals are a nice addition, as well.
Never Thought of Looking Back is overall an enjoyable album, with a nice modern traditional feel and skilled musicians throughout. There are a few moments that don’t seem to quite fit (the classic country of I’ve Been Around Enough to Know feels slightly out of place), and the constantly changing stream of lead singers makes for an album that’s not totally cohesive. However, the picking is certainly well-done, with Baucom (banjo), Bush (mandolin), Haynie (fiddle), Jerry Douglas (dobro), Wyatt Rice (guitar), and Steve Bryant (bass) doing a solid job.
For more information, visit Baucom’s website at www.terrybaucom.com. The album can be purchased from his website, as well as several online music retailers.