Bluegrass has a long history of building from within. An awful lot of successful solo artists got their starts working for another more prominent act. These days a lot of people think of Doyle Lawson when that topic comes to mind, and in truth his Quicksilver band has indeed spawned its share of future stars. Russell Moore, Steve Gulley, Jim VanCleve, Jamie Dailey, and Scott Vestal are just a few names who first came to nation prominence under Doyle’s wing.
But Ralph Stanley was doing the same thing while Doyle was still a sideman himself. From Ricky Skaggs and Keith Whitley to Larry Sparks and James King, a long line of notable figures in traditional bluegrass have spun a stint with the Clinch Mountain Boys into a rewarding solo career.
Current Clinch Mountain Boys bass player Randall Hibbitts is the latest to express his passion for the bluegrass sound in a solo album. Before working in the big show with Ralph, he did time with Dave Evans and Ralph Stanley II, so he’s well-grounded in the style.
Hibbitts’ Traveler project shows him to be a solid vocalist with as good a grip on contemporary grass as on the lonesome Stanley style. The music is produced with a decidedly modern flair, with Randall assisted by such stellar players as Ron Stewart on fiddle, his nephew Alex Hibbitts on mandolin and guitar, Jeff Partin on reso-guitar, Blake Hopper on banjo, and Matt Wallace on bass. Harmony vocals were provided by Daniel Salyer and Alex Hibbitts.
The singing is stout throughout, as is the picking, but what sets this record apart from the many of its sort is the strength of the material, drawn from current writers like Aubrey Holt (Memories of Home), Daniel Salyers (Can’t Take It Anymore), Don Rigsby and Ronnie Bowman (Old Kentucky Home), and Elmer Burchett, Danny Barnes, Alex Hibbits (Preacher).
Randall contributes one of his own, a ballad in support of the lonely military man far from home, Soldier’s Dream. Also impressive is his take on the old standard, Girl From The Greenbriar Shore, which gets the extra lonesome treatment.
The record concludes with a swingy version of Why You’re Leaving Me This Time, written by the recently-departed Larry McPeak which he recorded with The McPeak Brothers in 1998.
Lovers of both old timey and present-day bluegrass should find this one to their liking.