Blue Highway has a well-earned reputation for consistently choosing and recording the very finest new material introduced in the bluegrass genre. With four of the five members on board for the band’s entire run of nearly thirty years, three of them top songwriters, that shouldn’t be surprising, but is a remarkable feat all the same.
This week we finally have a new single from Blue Highway after a wait of three years, certainly compounded by more than 20 months of COVID shutdowns in 2020 and ’21. But let’s not quibble. New music from Blue Highway is always good news.
Rounder Records has released a first track from the band’s next album, one written by guitarist Tim Stafford called On the Roof of the World, which Tim says was inspired by a visit to the NASA’s Earth Observatory web site, and some rumination on the native people of the Himalayan region.
“One of the cool things about bluegrass is that, despite popular imagination, it can effectively carry a wide variety of themes and expression. This song is about mountains and longing for home, but not in the traditional bluegrass sense. It’s told from the point of view of a Sherpa from ‘the roof of the world,’ the Tibetan plateau, who ends up perishing on a climbing expedition to ‘the grand Mother Goddess of the world,’ Mt. Everest.
The melody for the tune came first, and it took some time to find a topic that might fit it best. I was reading an article on NASA’s Earth Observatory website called Winter on the Roof of the World, which mentioned that villagers herded sheep across frozen Lake Puma Yumco in winter, and included a shot of the region from the International Space Station. I knew that were plenty of songs from the experiences of western mountain climbers; why not one from the point of view of native guides?”
Lead vocal on this song comes from Blue Highway bassist Wayne Taylor, supported by Tim on guitar, Shawn Lane on mandolin, Jason Burleson on banjo, and newest member Gary Hultman on reso-guitar.
It’s a dandy. Have a listen.
On the Roof of the World is available now from popular download and streaming services online.