Since their formation in 2006, the Country Gentlemen Tribute Band has remained devoted to keeping the distinctive sound of Charlie Waller, and those who played alongside him, alive. Yesterday and Tomorrow, the group’s first release since the passing of founding member Bill Yates, is a unique project. Rather than performing songs in the deep Country Gentlemen catalog, the Country Gentlemen Tribute Band is performing mostly new, original material in the vein of Waller and the various iterations of the Country Gentlemen.
The first two tracks, Miner’s Child and A Fool Such As I, are both wonderful examples of the direction the band is taking. The former, written by mandolinist David Propst and his wife Tina, tells a captivating tale that falls right in line with the story-driven material of the classic Country Gentlemen. The latter has been recorded by numerous artists, among them Hank Snow and Elvis Presley. This is one of those songs that’s made for Mike Phipps’ voice. He delivers an excellent performance and receives appropriate backing from Propst on mandolin and tenor vocal, Lynwood Lunsford on banjo, Darren Beachley on dobro, and Eric Troutman on bass.
Two of the tracks are instrumentals and demonstrate Lynwood Lunsford’s command of the banjo styles played within the Country Gentlemen context. On (Ghost) Riders in the Sky, one can clearly hear the influence of Bill Emerson, while Lunsford’s original tune, The Eddie Swing, is performed in the style of and named after Eddie Adcock, who was part of what many call ‘The Classic Country Gentlemen.’
Appalachia 1975 and Misty Mountain Rain both come from Mark “Brink” Brinkman and David Coriell, and are nostalgic laments that yearn for easier, more carefree times in life.
One Tin Soldier is a true standout on this project. First recorded by the Canadian folk group, The Original Caste, in 1969, this countercultural anthem has been covered by numerous artists in the decades since. The Country Gentlemen Tribute Band’s rendition features incredible vocal harmony from Phipps, Propst, and Troutman. It’s one of those songs where you could close your eyes and imagine Charlie Waller, John Duffey, and Eddie Adcock belting this one out.
Four of the tracks come directly from the Country Gentlemen repertoire. Teach Your Children and Sea of Heartbreak were both featured on the Gentlemen’s 1971 album Sound Off, while God’s Coloring Book and Mountains and Memories were included on some of the group’s later efforts, River Bottom and Souvenirs. The Tribute Band’s renditions of these songs remain faithful to the original versions. They will surely please any serious fan of the Gentlemen.
This project closes with Legend of the Dogwood Tree. Most commonly associated with Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper, this recording features an earlier configuration of the Country Gentlemen Tribute Band consisting of founder Bill Yates, Phipps, Propst, Troutman, Rick Briggs on banjo, and Mark Clifton on dobro. The spoken recitation from Yates puts a beautiful bow on this album and serves as a reminder of how this group came together.
Yesterday and Tomorrow is a remarkable album. The Country Gentlemen Tribute Band are continuing to honor the legacy of this historic bluegrass ensemble by creatively adding the Country Gentlemen stamp to fresh and inventive material right alongside the timeless songs that are known and loved by legions of fans.