The Vancouver combo known as The Lonesome Town Painters — Angelo Eidse (guitar, vocals), Patrick Bartel (banjo, vocals), Jeremy Freeman (mandolin, vocals) and Fred Beach (bass, vocals) — share an enthusiasm for essential bluegrass that’s evident in every note and nuance that seeps from their sophomore set, Play & Sing Blue Grass Music. The title expresses a shared sentiment with unequivocal conviction, and indeed, the music measures up to all it promises. Although all but three of the the songs on the album are written by the band members themselves, all of it bears a similar style and stance to hallowed originals performed by the Stanley Brothers, Bill Monroe, and Jim & Jesse. Indeed, it’s a credit to their credence that they’re so adept at maintaining such an absolute allegiance to the form.
That said, the songs do vary in tone and tempo. The drive and determination of Go Ahead and Hurt Me, Heartsick, I Won’t Lie Awake, Can’t Get You Off Of My Mind, and Ain’t I Been Good To You are ably balanced by the more measured delivery of the heartsick ballads, Heart Full Of Pain, All My Dreams of You, You Belong To Me, and If I Was Loving You, as well as the full remorse and regret found in My Own Worst Enemy. While bluegrass music generally conveys heartfelt emotion as a rule, The Lonesome Town Painters have a knack for diving deeper into personal feelings, and sharing them freely and frequently. They’re unafraid to shed tears in their beers, and the anguish and heartache form a consistent thread that never drifts far from the surface.
As a result, the lyrics command equal attention with the arrangements themselves. Yet even so, there’s no doubting the quartet’s prowess. The jaunty instrumental, Billy Miner, makes that evident from the outset.
Indeed, The Lonesome Town Painters excel at combining skill and sentiment. Unlike some of their contemporaries, they make no attempt to veer from the template or add any unexpected elements to the mix. Rather, they do the opposite by simply adhering to a familiar formula. It works to their advantage; every offering sounds like a standard, one that’s practically indistinguishable from any of the music made by the masters.
The result is an album that already stands the test of time, courtesy of the fact that every offering keeps to that singular spirit of classic bluegrass through its emphasis, execution, and articulation. Simply stated, nominations for the IBMA Bluegrass Awards ought not be out of the question.