january 2011


Lost & Found
Rebel Records
Released: October 2010

Something old, something new. Musicians come and go, Allen Mills persists and gathers new voices around him. Lost & Found keeps rollin’ on. This 14-song collection is a retrospective, a kind of “greatest hits,” if you will, of two decades’ worth of L&S’s soothing harmonies and exemplary musicianship, with its share of humor, insight and reverence in the songs’ narratives. The oldest track here is the last one, 1980’s Lara Lowry-penned gospel number, “Don’t Wait Too Late,” a beauty of southern gospel harmony featuring Gene Parker on lead vocal, Mills on tenor, Dempsey Young taking the baritone part and bass man Bubba Chandler, backed only by a spare, somber acoustic guitar. “If Today Was the Last Day,” one of two 2009 cuts featuring the current line of Mills, Scottie Sparks (guitar, tenor vocal), Ronald Smith (banjo, baritone vocal) and Scott Napier (mandolin), kicks off the album on a positive note of treasuring memories of the past as time wears on, with a bit of spice added by Napier’s tasty mandolin solo and Smith’s rhythmic banjo work. The current lineup returns again with a simple celebration of down-home values, spirituality and community in the catchy “That’s What Country Folks Do,” with Mills taking a plainspoken lead vocal and ceding the spotlight to Napier and Smith midway for engaging solos before bringing it home in the final verse. Dempsey Smith, who spent 33 years with Lost & Found before passing away in 2006, is featured on a husky lead vocal on Jud Strunk’s gentle love song, the waltz-time “A Daisy A Day,” from the band’s 2009 album, Love, Lost and Found. The overarching theme of the songs here is one of looking back with fondness and appreciation, rather than regret, for the opportunities and friendships of a lifetime, and a genuine love for the country life of yore. From the 2002 album It’s About Time, Mills, Young, Smith and guitarist Barry Berrier offer an easygoing toe-tapper of a reflection on the lively picking and singing scene at “Johnston’s Grocery Store” in the old home town; from the same album comes “Log Cabin In the Lane,” with Mills taking the lead in summoning memories of a childhood home now succumbing to the ravages of time—as the singer admits of himself too—though the joys it holds remain undiminished.

Lost & Found at IBMA 2009: ‘If It Hadn’t Been For You.” Scott Napier (mandolin), Ronald Smith (banjo), Scottie Sparks (guitar, lead vocal) and Allan Mills (bass). Posted on YouTube by marthareid

It’s not a Lost & Found album, though, without some knee slapping humor, and so it is: from 1985’s Sun’s Gonna Shine album, with Steve Wilson on lead vocal, Gene Parker on banjo, Steve Thomas on fiddle along with Mills and Young, the band serves up a brisk, fiddle-fired jaundiced look at marriage in “The Man Who Wrote Home Sweet Home,” a song summed up in the sentiment, “The man who wrote ‘Home Sweet Home’ never was a married man/he never had no lovin’ wife to beat him with a fryin’ pan…”—Wilson playing it absolutely straight enhances the humor. This lineup contributes another going-going-gone exercise in the bustling Pete Goble kissoff song, “Leaving You and Mobile Too,” which is also an occasion for Thomas to make a sprightly statement on fiddle and for Parker to shadow him with a prickly banjo solo to boot; Mills, on lead vocal, sounds every bit as happy to be on the move as the title would indicate. The Mills-Young-Parker-Wilson quartet is responsible for one of the album’s most moving moments, a stirring, pastoral treatment of “Peace In the Valley,” Mills taking a committed lead vocal, the others blending in to make exalted four-part harmony on the chorus, and Parker and Young adding austere, atmospheric banjo and mandolin solos. Lost & Found has a lot more music in it, but as a retrospective of where the band has been and where it’s at today, Down On Sawmill Road is satisfying indeed. The next chapter will be most welcome.—David McGee

Lost & Found’s Down On Sawmill Road is available 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