Junior Sisk has been one of the most popular voices in traditional bluegrass over the past several years. Winning IBMA’s for Song of the Year and Album of the Year in 2012, named Male Vocalist of the Year in 2013, and being nominated for a host of other awards in recent years, Junior has proven that down-the-middle, hard core bluegrass can still be successful and relevant in the 21st century. His current album, Trouble Follows Me serves as the latest proof.
The title may seem a bit ironic to some, considering the unwarranted backlash Junior received for his humorous Old Bicycle Chain song in 2013, but you’ll have trouble finding anything but great bluegrass on this new record. (While there’s no mention of bicycle chains here, an unconfirmed source reports that a “handlebar” song was cut from the final track listing.)
Junior Sisk & Rambler’s Choice’s fifth album for Rebel Records may be their best to date. The album’s opening track and debut single, Honky-Tonked To Death has been a hit on bluegrass radio across the country for the past few months. Written by popular Kentucky songwriter, Bill Castle, it is a good ole drivin’ bluegrass song about liquor leading to lost love. Who doesn’t love a good honky-tonk song every now and then?
Junior’s voice is one of the most versatile in traditional bluegrass, and this album showcases what makes him such a master stylist. Honky-Tonked To Death shows Junior being Junior on a lonesome bluegrass song filled with heartache and regret. This is his forte, and he definitely sounds comfortable here.
Trouble Follows Me also features Junior stepping out of his comfort zone a bit, excelling while he’s at it. There is no finer example than on Tom T. and Dixie Hall’s Walk Slow.
Easily a highlight, Walk Slow is among Tom T. and Miss Dixie’s best bluegrass songs – which is really saying something considering their track record in writing hits over the past several years. It’s a somber and reflective piece which encourages the listener to slow down in the crazy, fast-paced world in which we live. Promoting a message of soaking up every moment and not letting life get in the way if living, Walk Slow challenges the listener to take a breath of fresh air in the hustle and bustle of every day life. It is also one of Junior’s strongest vocal performances to date. He sings with such heartfelt conviction that the listener is compelled to hang on every word. The uncluttered arrangement places the sole focus on the singer and the song, both of which are exceptional.
Led by Jason Davis’ banjo, Don’t Think About It Too Long is sure to have listeners singing along by the second chorus, and it’ll be stuck in your head for days. This song is simple, but boy, is it fun! Although it’s a newer song, this one sounds as if it could have been an old square dance number. Or maybe it’s just the fiery old-time banjo and fiddle from Jason Davis and Billy Hawks. Regardless, this song is a ton of fun. Good, simple, fun songs aren’t as in vogue as the once were, and I don’t know why. When you hear songs like Don’t Think About It Too Long, do exactly that – don’t think about it, and just enjoy it!
>Frost On The Bluegrass is another standout cut. Telling the tale of a southern migrant working a good factory job up north, he is anxiously awaiting his upcoming retirement so he can head back to the mountains. Painting a vivid picture of autumn among the peaks, it’ll make even the most metropolitan Yankee homesick for the hills.
Other album highlights include A Cold Empty Bottle, Jesus Walked Upon The Water (the album’s lone Gospel song), and the aforementioned ironic title track, Trouble Follows Me. Not only is the song a clever choice for a title, but the song itself features a humorous twist as well. Written by Junior and his father, it tells of a bitter farmer upset at the bank for foreclosing on his home in order to build a prison. So he robs the bank and is incarcerated on the very property he once called home.
Backed by Rambler’s Choice (Jason Davis, banjo; Billy Hawks, fiddle; Jonathan Dillon, mandolin; Jason “Sweet Tater” Tomlin, bass), Junior Sisk has delivered yet another fine album, proving why he is one of the top voices in traditional bluegrass music.
You can find Trouble Follows Me wherever fine bluegrass recordings are sold.