Randy Kohrs
Rural Rhythm

Randy Kohrs has joked about his 2007 album, Old Photograph, showcasing his affinity for blues, country and bluegrass-to his disadvantage commercially, because a solid outing on disc fit neatly into no single niche. But to an artist whose simple description of his music is "acoustic," Old Photograph was true to his sensibility. Nevertheless, Quicksand should avoid the same classification conundrum as its predecessor, since this Kohrs-produced longplayer comes down foursquare in traditional country and bluegrass territory (them blues can really get you down sometimes), with ample dollops of fiddle, mandolin, banjo and of course Kohrs's impeccable and always tasty resophonic guitar and equally affecting vocals serving to evoke a classically backwoods feel throughout. It is, after all, acoustic music.

Do not be mislead by the album title. Nothing drags or goes down for the last time in Quicksand. To get his point across musically Kohrs surrounds himself with some of the finest players extant, including, among others, Adam Steffey on mandolin, Tim Crouch on fiddle, Scott Vestal and Mike Sumner on banjo, Chris Wood playing with a most elegant, and light, touch on drums. Of course Kohrs's resophonic steals the spotlight whenever it shows up, as when it comes sputtering in and then glides through a pointed solo on the strutting topical number, "Truman's Vision," a slightly heated discourse on unchecked development as an environmental hazard. A big believer in giving his bandmates' their due on record, Kohrs favors arrangements that go around the horn, so to speak, allowing his gifted team to buttress his spirited vocals with their instrumental statements. This works to great effect in giving Crouch nearly a co-starring role with his fiddling, so vital to almost every number, whether it's a keening, go-for-broke shuffle such as Tom T. Hall's wry, delightful sequel to a beloved folk tune, "More About John Henry," or mournfully underpinning the chronicle of temptation's lure and its ensuing spiritual dislocation in the gently rolling title track. Scott Haas makes the most of his one appearance on banjo, in a toe-tapping treatment of Webb Pierce's "It's Been So Long," which also features a brief, striking between-verses instrumental dialogue between acoustic guitar (Andrew Crawford), mandolin (Aaron Ramsey), resophonic (Kohrs) and fiddle (Ashley Brown).

Among many of Quicksand's virtues is one for which Kohrs rarely gets much notice but deserves it: his singing. He may not knock out anyone with his range, but he can go where he needs to go, and the personality infusing his tenor more than compensates for, well, everything else. In "Cumberland," an easy rolling, expansive tribute to a mighty river's undaunted course, his voice is replete with wonder and awe upon surveying the power of nature's strength and fortitude. In the densely churning musical miasma of Mike Henderson's "If You Think It's Hot In Here," a cautionary tale if ever there was one about the fiery fate awaiting those whose earthly exploits are less than charitable towards others, Kohrs digs down for a hearty, gospel thrust, emoting fervently and declaiming with authority—even rising to a fevered shout when things really get rolling—as a female trio of Scat Springs and Anne and Regina McRary parry his outbursts with rousing harmony retorts. Sensitivity comes natural, too, as he demonstrates on the Billy Ryan-Brent Baxter ballad, "Sunday Clothes," a touching reminiscence of a loving mother who made sure her boy went to church every Sunday. Kohrs's tender reading couldn't be more humble and loving in its expressed gratitude for lasting lessons learned long ago. In short, Kohrs’s latest is a winner on every level, and when he signs off with a tasty, driving country blues he co-wrote with Ashley Brown, "Down Around Clarksdale," a moment where he not only knocks the lyric out of the park with his gritty vocal but also cuts loose with a fury on the resophonic, well, that's about the perfect ending to this particular tour de force, slipping in a taste of something he loves and not worrying about whether it belongs. It fits fine. —David McGee

Buy it at www.amazon.com

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Laura Fissinger, Christopher Hill, 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