april 2008

Blue Highway

Not that Blue Highway hasn't been working on a higher plane all along, but on Through The Window Of a Train the quintet outdoes itself. Produced by the band at Maggard Sound in Big Stone Gap, Virginia, the album resonates with a contemporary backwoods feel coupled to an urgency born of strong original material flush with social consciousness. It's compelling as both literature and music, a memorable achievement in every respect. A decorated Vietnam vet, now forgotten and struggling, is fully realized and vividly recalled by Wayne Taylor's sharp-eyed, empathetic observations in his poignant "Homeless Man," an all too common tale that rolls out with chilling inevitability against the steady strumming of two guitars and a mandolin supporting Taylor's sturdy tenor vocal. The same two guitars-and-mandolin lineup sputters a steady rhythm to power Tim Stafford's "Two Soldiers," a gut-wrenching but seldom-told tale of the emotional toll exacted on the uniformed men who bring families the tragic news of a soldier's death, a chilling portrait that fades out with the sound of a lone, haunting brush drum and, further in the distance, a muted boom, like guns in salute to the fallen. A pure bluegrass toe-tapper, Stafford's steady churning title song happens to relate the poignant reminiscences of a lifelong railroader reflecting on the moving diversity of life he saw from his cab while others were driving "the same old roads." In the moody ballad "My Ropin' Days Are Done," Stafford co-opts the melody from "Streets of Laredo" to relate the anxiety of a rodeo cowboy who's feeling adrift as age does him in, although his plaintive adieu suggests he's got one more ride left in him before he goes home for good. Dreams die hard here. Get on board; Blue Highway's on a roll.—David McGee

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Derk Richardson
Logo Design: John Mendelsohn (www.johnmendelsohn.com)
Website Design: Kieran McGee (www.kieranmcgee.com)
Staff Photographers: Audrey Harrod (Louisville, KY; www.flickr.com/audreyharrod), Alicia Zappier (New York)
E-mail: thebluegrassspecial@gmail.com
Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024