Fenced In harbor no allusions other than their intents. They eschew any sort of innovative stance in favor of a traditional tapestry, a seasoned sound built on bluegrass basics and a timeless template. It’s little surprise then that this self-titled effort focuses entirely on outside compositions, a mix of Gospel standards and songs written and recorded by Bill Monroe, Carter Stanley, Jim Lauderdale, Ronnie Bowman, Don Byrd, and Russell Lee Wilson. On first hearing, the music appears to be generally of a forlorn variety, mostly low-key laments in the form of In the Pines, Three Rusty Nails, and Forever Ain’t No Trouble No More Now. All seem to share a dedication and devotion that resonates to the core of their conviction. The heartfelt homage embodied in The Stanleys Will Sing Again is particularly poignant, especially when one considers the fact that the band’s banjo player, Steve Sparkman, once performed with Dr. Ralph Stanley back in the day.
That said, it’s Carter that garners the spotlight in this particular entry. “Carter, you’re gone but never forgotten,” they sing with heavenly harmonies of their own. “The memories of you are with us all the time.”
Indeed, that sentiment shines through with clarity and conviction.
To be sure, Fenced In isn’t all music of the maudlin variety. Titles aside, Heavenly Highway, Hello City Limits, and Lonesome Road Blues are lively and enticing, flush with the energy and enthusiasm that naturally results when seasoned musicians take an opportunity to pick and play. Sparkman, vocalist/guitarist Curnie Lee Wilson, singer Rick Oldfield, bassist Dustin Parker, and multi-talented musician and special guest John Rigsby are all in perfect sync, creating a unified sound that flows freely with precision, craft and cohesion. It’s an ideal example of bluegrass at its best, flush with comfort and a caress. Suffice it to say, Fenced In corrals that sound exceptionally well.