Edgar Loudermilk first made his name in bluegrass as a reliable, rock-solid bass player in a series of well-known groups – Rhonda Vincent & the Rage, Marty Raybon & Full Circle, Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out. More recently, however, he’s stepped out into the spotlight as a band leader, earning quite a bit of praise and radio play from 2019’s Lonesome Riverboat Blues, the first effort from the Edgar Loudermilk Band. Rural Rhythm has recently released a second album from the group, The Dark Side of Lonesome, and it quickly reminds listeners that Loudermilk isn’t just a bass player, but an all-around talent. I can confidently say this is Loudermilk’s best work yet.
Much of that has to do with the material he has put together here. A majority of the tracks include Loudermilk as a writer, and he shows off a nice range that moves out a bit from cabins, coal mining, and other stereotypical bluegrass topics. One of my favorites is I’m Going Home, a cleverly-worded kiss-off number with a bouncy arrangement reminiscent of early Flatt & Scruggs, penned by Loudermilk and the group’s mandolin player, Zack Autry. The singer, tired of being used by a woman who’s only ever around when she needs something from him, finally decides to put his foot down: “You stood me up tonight so I’ll just tell you on the phone, the game comes on at eight, I’m going home.” Another strong song about a no-good woman is I’ll Put the Blame On You, which Loudermilk wrote with Scott Mehaffey. Curtis Bumgarner’s driving banjo guides the fast-paced song (it clocks in at under two minutes), and Michael Cleveland adds some spicy fiddling.
On the more contemporary side of things is another Loudermilk and Autry collaboration, The Deal That Won’t Go Down. It’s a brooding, contemplative song about a man looking back on his past. Bumgarner completely switches gears here, showing his range with a more progressive style, setting a rolling rhythm that fits well with the singer’s tale of running from his troubles. A Place to Call Home has a more modern sound, as well, but with a much brighter feel. From Loudermilk, Autry, and guitarist Clint Coker, it’s a fitting closing track that finds a rambler making his way home. Smooth guitar from Coker and strong dobro from guest Jeff Partin help set off the uplifting lyrics.
Autry takes on lead vocals for The Queen of Laramie, which he co-wrote with Tim Stafford. Some of Stafford’s best songs are his historical tales of the Old West, and this is no different. The lyrics paint a vivid picture of a young woman making her way in a new world – “just a girl who went astray chasing dreams.” It’s a lovely, folk-tinged number that will have listeners hitting rewind to catch lyrical nuances. Also featuring lead vocals from Autry is the fine traditional Gospel number, Just for Me. It’s a stirring rendition of an old hymn with nice harmony vocals from Loudermilk.
The Dark Side of Lonesome is a thoroughly enjoyable album with a little bit of something for everyone. From driving traditional grass to brighter, more contemporary sounds, Loudermilk has added just enough variety to keep listeners interested and entertained. This is a solid, well-put together album, with an extremely strong band, that should catch the attention of radio programmers and festival fans alike.
For more information on the Edgar Loudermilk Band, visit them online. Their new album is available from a variety of online music retailers.