The sacred and profane interface seamlessly in bluegrass music as they do in the blues. It could be argued that the only qualitative differences between bluegrass and the blues are cultural ones, African-American versus Western European. But the thematic common denominators are the same: love, loss, God, Saturday night, and Sunday morning.
BlueRidge is a South Carolina-based standard bluegrass quintet lead by master mandolinist Alan Bibey. The band is a heady mixture of old and new. Equally inspired by the Stanley Brothers, the Osborne Brothers and Doyle Lawson, BlueRidge wed the rhythm of bluegrass music’s past with the beat of rock & roll. In that, BlueRidge is not unlike labelmates Del McCoury Band, whose most recent recording, It’s Just the Night , boasts the same influences.
On BlueRidge’s new recording, Side By Side, the band explores all of the classical themes of bluegrass (and humanity). Guitarist Junior Sisk sings the lion’s share of the lead vocals, joined by the harmony of the rest of the band singing whatever is called for. The results are crisp mountain vocals, seemingly suspended over nimble acoustic music. However, the standout selection on the recording is the a cappella "Land of Light." A recording of this style of singing is definitely in order. "Land of Light" covers the Sunday morning variable of the Bluegrass equation, along with "Sailing with The Master." The love songs, "Back to Cana," "What If," and "All the Good Times," all smack of innocence. Even the songs about loss don’t have so much as a whiff of whiskey about them.
What characteristic endorses music like this? Genera, to be sure, but also the purity of talent and intention. This is music to listen to for sustenance.
Visit Sugar Hill Records and BlueRidge on the web.