june 2012

audie blaylock
Audie Blaylock: On a hot roll with Redline

Flat Good and Flat Right

By David McGee

audie blaylcok hard countryHARD COUNTRY
Audie Blaylock and Redline
Rural Rhythm

On balance it’s safe to say Audie Blaylock and Redline (Jessie Brock, mandolin; Patrick McAvinue, fiddle; Russ Carson, banjo; Jason Moore, bass) are on a hot roll. Each year since 2009 the group has released an album of state-of-the-art traditional bluegrass, with last year’s contribution being a stirring centennial tribute to the father of bluegrass, I’m Going Back to Old Kentucy (A Bill Monroe Celebration). The intriguingly titled Hard Country continues that trend, rife as it is with tight, inspired playing, soulful singing and stellar songs by the likes of Harley Allen, Ira Louvin, Jon Weisberg, Woody Guthrie and Audie himself.

Audie told Bluegrass Today he picked the title Hard Country because “it shows just how closely bluegrass and country music are related.” Indeed, the quintet blurs the line between the two frequently, especially on the heart tugging ballads: Allen’s “Home Is Where the Heart Is,” a tender missive of commitment from one partner to another as the former sets out on another journey, inspires one of Blaylock’s finest recorded vocals, sensitive and comforting all at once. Love is at the core of Blaylock’s own “A Grandmother’s Love,” a moving, subdued reminiscence of a “love greater than gold,” with the Redliners supporting Audie’s heartfelt lead with close, soaring harmonies. Love rent asunder informs the Ira Louvin/Irene Franks gem, “Stormy Horizon’s,” with its classic Louvins-style harmonies and tear-stained backdrop featuring mournful instrumental cries from Brock’s mandolin and McAvinue’s fiddle.

At Niles Bluegrass 2012, Audie Blaylock and Redline perform ‘A Natural Thing’ from the new album, Hard Country

On the other hand, some hard charging numbers come down squarely on the bluegrass side: Josh Shilling-Jon Weisberger’s “A Real Good Way to Lose” offers some cautionary advice on the best way to screw up a relationship for good, complete with strutting solos by McAvinue (fiddle) and Brock (mandolin) to press the point. Harley Allen’s catchy, high stepping “A Natural Thing” celebrates the flowering of new love, with Blaylock’s smooth, honeyed vocal sounding every bit as awestruck as the lyrics suggest as McAvinue, Brock and Carson (banjo) each spice up the festive atmosphere with dynamic solos. Carson takes the bull by the horns in leading “Philadelphia Lawyer” out of the gate at a brisk pace and maintaining his steady pace throughout, keying the instrumental thrust as Blaylock divests himself of a spirited telling of the story of the ill-fated, devious barrister who meets an untimely fate courtesy a jealous, “gun-toting cowboy.” (The song is suddenly popular, it seems, as it also appears in bluegrass form on the new Marley’s Ghost album, Jubilee, reviewed in this issue; though written by Woody Guthrie, the tune is curiously credited here as “Traditional.”) In the end Audie Blaylock and Redline render irrelevant the distinction between country, bluegrass or anything else they might throw into the mix, because this is flat good music by some fellows who always play it like they mean it. Chalk it up as another winner for one of the best bands out there.

Audie Blaylock and Redline’s Hard Country 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)
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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