The title given the latest release by the veteran combo Audie Blaylock and Redline may, at first, seem something of a misnomer. While Blaylock (guitar, vocals) and his compatriots in Redline — Even Ward (banjo), Mason Wright (fiddle) and Reed Jones (upright bass) — definitely apply a distinctive touch and sensibility, the music they make bows to past precepts and shares a certain sense of timeless tradition. Blaylock notes that the album’s rousing first single, Love Is An Awful Thing, acknowledges the trajectory from then to now. Indeed, while the name of the song may seem somewhat disparaging, it’s quite the opposite; it effectively defines and describes the tack they take throughout.
In that sense, Originalist attempts to redefine vintage bluegrass as a force going forward. Although the upbeat harmonies of Don’t Know Why, the waltzing rhythms of The Ghost of Cecil Watson and the honkytonk sound of I Just Came to Get My Baby pay homage to the most revered aspects of current grassicana, it’s clear that the quartet are determined to put their own spin on the music and fuel it with their own distinctive presence and personality.
Indeed, the material relays a series of affecting narratives, from the homesick tale of Foggy Old London, and the enduring emotion and waltzing refrain of Always a Fight, to the hoary folk tradition passed along by Prodigal Son, the forlorn tale of a departed lover on Medicine Springs, and the sentiment and sway shared in (Is This) My Destiny? There’s a sense of richness and revival in each of these offerings, all of which are imbued with a distinctive delivery all their own.
It’s also worth noting that half the songs here are originals and the remainder come courtesy of earlier icons such as the Stanley Brothers, the Delmore Brothers, and Jimmy Martin, among others. Yet in terms of both tone and tempo, the attitude and approach provides a constant continuum throughout, with their personal perspective always remaining front and center.
Blaylock is, of course, a seasoned player, and so it’s only natural that he’s able to inform these arrangements with his own earnest attitude. Clearly, he is an Originalist after all.