Jack Dunlap and Robert Mabe have been performing together for the last three years. In 2020, they officially formed a partnership centered around their original material. Their debut album, Stumblin Out The Gate, is a reflection of the duo’s newgrass inflected stylings.
The opening track, Time Is Running Out was written by Jack Dunlap. While it is a good song lyrically, the piece suffers from being played too fast, therefore taking away from the words that Dunlap crafted.
Flowers Down Below also written by Dunlap, is a deep, thought provoking song about exiting a relationship and not getting proper closure. It’s a piece that could take on multiple different angles in terms of lost love and the end of a particular chapter in life.
The title track, Stumblin’ Out Of The Gate, is the sole instrumental on the project. Composed by banjoist Robert Mabe, this is a really neat tune in terms of arrangement. Some bluegrass instrumentals can get predictable when it comes to key signatures and chord changes. That is not the case with this one. This piece goes in some interesting directions. It’s a great example of the band’s arrangement and instrumental abilities. Along with Mabe on banjo and Jack Dunlap on guitar and mandolin, the group also consists of Alex Kimble on bass and Mason Wright on fiddle.
With The Other Not Around was written by Jack Dunlap’s brother Buddy. A good straight ahead bluegrass song, it shows the band’s prowess in a more traditional vein.
Goodbye Marie is the sole cover track on this project. One could argue that it’s a cover of a cover. Originally recorded by country singer Kenny Rogers in 1979, Dunlap & Mabe’s rendition of it is reminiscent of the version performed by Livewire on their 1990 album, Wired!. It’s a very tasteful performance and the group really does the song justice.
The album’s closing track, Sit and Watch It Rain by Jack Dunlap, is a song revolving around the classic theme of heartbreak. While the story and lyrical content is somewhat cliché, you can’t deny the intriguing melody as well as the group’s smooth vocal harmonies.
Stumblin’ Out Of The Gate captures Dunlap & Mabe very much in their developmental stage as a band. Nonetheless they have great original material and natural aptitude as instrumentalists and vocalists. This recording is a promising effort and a nice illustration of the current chapter in their journey.