I’m always intrigued by an all-original bluegrass album. We have a strong tradition in bluegrass of recycling older material – lyrics, melody lines, whole songs, etc. – so it’s interesting to see what fresh ideas today’s songwriters are coming up with. For his third album with Engelhardt Music Group, That Kind of Lonesome, Eddie Sanders packs the track list full of originals – snappy rhymes, catchy melodies, and an easygoing contemporary sound, all featuring him as a co-writer alongside folks like Jon Weisberger, Shawn Camp, and Glen Duncan. Though he touches on a number of familiar bluegrass topics, clever turns of phrase (along with his smooth lead vocals), make this album an enjoyable listen.
Several early singles from the album have found success at radio, including the hard-driving heartbreak number Till the River Starts to Rise, co-written with Adam Engelhardt. Guided by Scott Vestal’s always top-notch banjo and some neat mandolin licks from Ronnie McCoury, the song rushes along, mimicking the flash flood of tears the singer is planning to cry. Another single, Last Lonesome Pine, has a bluesy groove, with lonesome fiddle from Tim Crouch. It’s a musing on being alone, with the singer asking a tree standing alone on a mountaintop, “You’ve been there so long, how do you carry on? What secrets can you pass along to me?”
A Long Way from Forever is a melancholy, country-tinged piece about a man dealing with the aftershocks of his wife abruptly packing up and leaving him. Distinct details and a rolling, thoughtful melody set by Vestal’s banjo make this one listeners are likely to hit repeat on. What Do I Tell My Heart has a similar theme, as the singer confronts the woman leaving him, letting her know that he can handle the mundane tasks of a breakup, but his heart is a different matter. There’s a ’90s country vibe here (and on several other songs throughout the album), which I enjoyed.
My favorite track (and one of the most well-written on the album), however, is Heartbreak Highway, which traces the journey of a rambling guitar picker. There are so many good lines and vivid details in this song, as the narrator slowly gets around to the reason he set off rambling in the first place: “Six strings full of heartache took me around the world, that suitcase full of memories of a little mountain girl.” Cody Kilby offers some fine guitar here, as well. If this song’s not been released to radio yet, it needs to get there, stat.
Listeners will also likely enjoy Sanders’s catchy tracks about growing up in the country, including the bouncy Farm to Market Road, which lists off the familiar descriptors of country living in the early to mid 20th century: barn dances, plowing fields, church on Sundays. Closing out the album is Old Town Square, which has a similar sound and feel as it reminisces on the excitement of a small-town get-together.
Sanders and his co-writers have put together a nice collection of music that will appeal to a wide swath of bluegrass fans. It’s pretty traditional on the instrumentation side of things, while Sanders’s vocals and some lyrics help it slide further into the contemporary, acoustic country sound. It may be a bit vanilla for some folks, especially those that prefer mashing in B, but it’s a solid effort with plenty of well-written, radio-friendly tracks.
For more information on Eddie Sanders, visit him online. His new album is available from several online music retailers.