Cool Cleveland Sounds, 12.28.05-1.4.06
By Cool Cleveland contributor Peter Chakerian
Unlike mainstream country music, bluegrass relies mostly on acoustic stringed instruments, melody instruments switching for the lead and a passion for honesty and picturesque tradition. So it should be no surprise that longtime Cleveland music scene luminaries Hillbilly Idol not only do bluegrass well, but do bluegrass proud on their third full-length CD, entitled Lights of Town.
The recording finds core members Paul Kovac (vocals, guitar, mandolin, banjo, fiddle), Al Moss (vocals, pedal steel, acoustic guitar) and Bill Watson (acoustic bass) celebrating bluegrass, old-school country and other divine Americana styles with festive aplomb. During the course of 12 tracks on Lights of Town, HBI delivers catchy 'n' exciting roots music one foot in the present, one foot in the past and all ten toes a-tappin.
The tone is set with the leadoff title track, which features twinges of a high lonesome sound and is delectable in its simplicity. Heartfelt harmonies abound on other tracks, including Blue Showin Through (shades of crisp Earl Scruggs-like picking here), the tasty Appalachian cut Comin Home By Goin Away and Thinkin About Charlie, which could back up the best country-style soft shoe shuffle.
Another highlight, Lavada is a lust song, dirty and a touch mischievous in its cosmopolitan flair. Then theres my personal fave, an instrumental called Quadruplet Polka, which may be the most enjoyable noveaux take on polka I've heard since Brave Combo. Yeah, it's that good.
What you have here on Lights of Town is solid songwriting, stories steeped in tradition and timeless themes set to simple music. It's downhome, bluegrass, western swing, honkytonk and as tasty and colorful as any blue plate special you might find on a menu. But mostly its just good, honest DIY Americana music. And a must have.
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