Andrew Crawford bills himself as “a career guitarist, instructor, singer, songwriter, and producer from South Carolina.” But in truth, he’s more than that. In addition to the time he’s spent touring, teaching and recording, he’s also shared stages and studios with multiple headliners — among them, Vince Gill, Rhonda Vincent, Jim Lauderdale, and Dale Ann Bradley.
His new album, The Lonesome Season, finds those favors repaid by an astute group of musicians who contribute to its tones and textures, resulting in a record that resonates and reflects in equal measure. Made up of entirely original material and produced by Crawford himself, it offers a series of heartfelt narratives that derive their storylines from adventures and exploits of those who dared to pursue their dreams and, in return, found purpose if not always prosperity. The title track that provides the nimble album opener states the premise succinctly:
I’ve endured so many battles,
But I will not lose one
Though my body is tired and fragile,
And though my will cannot take much more…
It’s been a cold and lonesome season
But the sun will surely shine.
Crawford combines a zest for bluegrass basics and his own storytelling skills in such a way as to make an incisive impact, while providing a deeper historical overview in the process. On songs such as How Many Miles of Track, Always Another Mountain, and Big Mountain, he surveys both the daring and difficulties faced by those rugged individuals who went west with a willingness to withstand the challenges they would face along the way. They convey that commitment in ways that ring with a resilience, and on certain songs — The House That Daddy Built and Had My Share of Heartache — he allows for some tender trappings as conveyed through his own personal perspective.
This, then, is a decidedly emphatic set of songs — earnest, engaging and, in most cases, rife with an exhilaration and enthusiasm that connects convincingly even on initial encounter. The rapid-fire picking, relayed in tandem with Crawford’s emotive and expressive vocals, allow each song to make an indelible impression, and even the two instrumentals, Land of the Giants and Fear of the Mountain, manage to convey that expressed emotion.
The album includes contributions from some of the finest players in contemporary bluegrass, including Aaron Ramsey, Shawn Lane, Patton Wages, Josh Shilling, Glen Harrell and several others.
That makes The Lonesome Season a total triumph, a clear indication that Crawford is comfortable at center stage. One can only hope that there’s more to come, because it will certainly be worth the wait.