Many of today’s bluegrass musicians are interested in stretching the boundaries of their genre, mixing in elements from other styles of music and creating progressive sounds. Others prefer to reflect on the music of those who have come before them, reinvigorating a tradition that is over half a century long. Travers Chandler is in the second category. He is heavily influenced by such traditional-sounding acts as the Stanley Brothers, the Johnson Mountain Boys, and Charlie Moore’s Dixie Partners, and along with his band Avery County, Chandler has recently released Pardon Me…, an album full of music demonstrating his passion for traditional bluegrass.
Travers Chandler and Avery County’s second album was entitled State of Depression, and it seems like they have continued the lonesome theme with their most recent recording. Chandler includes multiple older songs on this album, many of them somewhat lesser-known tracks from several decades ago. This Old Bar Stool is a tear-fillled drinking song written by Pete Goble and Leroy Drumm (who also penned the Larry Sparks classic Tennessee 1949), which features a man who has nothing left to do but sit at a bar and cry. Whiskey, which was previously recorded by the Stanley Brothers, also shows the downfalls of alcohol. Chandler’s vocals fit the song’s lyrics well – both are mournful and filled with regret.
Chandler also includes a few covers of classic country songs, rendered in his signature traditional bluegrass style. The band draws inspiration from Keith Whitley on Long Black Limo, which Chandler gives the perfect amount of bitterness. The title track, Pardon Me… (I’ve Got Someone to Kill), is a Johnny Paycheck cut from the 1960s featuring twin fiddles and the calm anger of a man who has been pushed over the edge by a cheating woman.
Several tracks on the album feature other band members taking lead vocal duty. One Kiss Away from Loneliness, an Osborne Brothers song about a man poised on the edge of heartbreak, showcases guitarist John Bryan’s high, clear lead, while another Osborne Brothers tune, Lil Trouble includes former band member Eddie Gill’s singing on a uptempo, banjo-driven song about a troublesome woman.
The album also displays first-rate traditional instrumentation, fitting well with the lonesome songs Chandler has chosen to include. Tom Isaacs tears up two banjo tunes, Newton Grove and Reuben Takes the D Train. Chandler’s mandolin stylings could fit in easily on recordings from the 1950s and 1960s. Bryan provides strong rhythm guitar throughout, while Merl Johnson’s fiddle helps to add to the overall lonesome feeling of the record. Jessica Smith and Eddie Lovelace share duties keeping time on upright bass.
Chandler and his band have obviously studied the performances of their heroes, emerging with a tight, classic sound that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on a Stanley Brothers or Jimmy Martin recording. Pardon Me… is a must for fans of classic bluegrass.
For more information on the band and their new album, visit www.averycountyband.com.