Every now and then, two artists come together and form a collaboration that fans are sure to remember for years to come. With their debut release, Reborn, Mark Newton and Steve Thomas have likely earned themselves a spot in that category. This twelve-song collection is full of old favorites, excellent vocals, and solid musicianship.
The album’s lead single and opening track, Old McDonald, gets things off to a great start. This humorous story on the economic downturn is a bouncy take on the children’s song of the same name, complete with a few E-I-E-I-O’s. Another standout cut is their version of the old Delmore Brothers tune Blue Railroad Train, rendered in a slow, bluesy fashion.
Painted Lady, an enjoyable tune about a man seeking both solace and reminders of the Wild West from a female companion, has a nice groove and fine high lead vocals from Newton, reprising his original performance of the song with Knoxville Grass in 1980. The mournful Pineywood Hills is a great variation on the ‘old homeplace’ theme, with an acoustic country sound. Thomas’s fiddling shines on these two tracks, as it does on Kentucky Waltz. This version of the classic piece is a bit slower than the Monroe cut, with a bit of a western swing sound. The Girl I Left in Sunny Tennessee also gets slowed down, with a laidback, old-time feel and clawhammer banjo courtesy of Ricky Skaggs.
The album’s only original song is Far Far Cry, written and sung by Thomas. This upbeat tune is one of the more bluegrass-sounding here, and shares the story of a man who can’t keep his mind on track after the one he loves leaves. The traditional Nobody’s Business also gets an uptempo bluegrass treatment and will have listeners’ toes tapping as the album comes to an end.
Newton and Thomas share lead vocal duty throughout the album. Newton also contributes guitar, while Thomas plays mandolin, fiddle, guitar, and Dobro. They are joined by Matt Wallace on bass and special guests Skaggs and Scott Vestal (banjo). While some of the tunes on the album fall closer to the country genre than they do bluegrass, Reborn should definitely be added to the “to buy” list for fans of smooth, contemporary bluegrass music.
For more information on Newton and Thomas’s music, including tour dates, visit their website at www.newtonandthomas.com.
Reborn can be purchased from iTunes, Amazon, and various other online retailers.