A gaggle of guest musicians and a setlist buoyed by traditional tunes, each go a long way towards ensuring success. Yet to give credit for those extra additives alone would diminish the kudos due Cumberland County Line Bluegrass for The Road I Traveled, their infectious second album. While they buttress their efforts with a commendable cast — producer Skip Cherryholmes, members of Lorraine Jordan and Carolina Road, and a handful of others —this particular effort’s success is due entirely to the core combo.
The evidence is obvious by virtue of some solid performances, each flush with vitality and versatility. Gillian Welch’s Red Clay Halo, the title track, and Deep Water, an original Gospel tune written by mandolin player Bob Phillips, all attest to the band’s ability to put a singular spin on each of their offerings. A tasteful twist on Hank Williams’ mournful ballad, House of Gold, affirms that impression all the more. Flush with harmonies and some solitary picking, it transforms the song into a classic of a vintage variety. Likewise, their sprightly reads of less known material — Cadillac Holmes’ Up and Down the Mountain and John Harrell’s Down By Mabry’s Hill — convey the vigor and enthusiasm that’s clearly at the base of their intents.
Granted, when you’re covering songs by notables along the lines of Hank Sr. or Gillian Welch, you’re well on your way to making a formidable impression. However, given the public’s natural inclination to compare covers to the originals, there can also be a downside when attempting to capture the vibe of any well-etched standard. Happily then, Cumberland County Line Bluegrass manage to etch their own impression, and as a result, one would be hard pressed to distinguish the album’s new material from the old. That speaks not only to the band’s ability to manage the material, but also to their effort to carve an indelible impression all their own.
A worthy step forward, The Road I Traveled finds them well along their probable path towards success.