Monday, October 22, 2012

CD REVIEW - The Yankee Rebels – Flight of the Phoenix

By: W.J. Hallock

The Yankee Rebels – Flight of the Phoenix

Label: Ampersand Records

Released: August, 2012

If you love three part vocal harmony like I do, then you’re going to love the new CD “Flight Of The Phoenix” by The Yankee Rebels. Their harmony is super! If you love a five piece bluegrass band with traditional instrumentation, you’re going to love it, too.

Their “pickin’” is as good as their singing! They’re good, and they should be….. they’ve been playing together since FOREVER! Open up the liner notes and you’ll find pictures of them when they started in the ‘60’s, more pictures from the 70’s and ‘80’s and right on up to today. This band is obviously committed and dedicated, and from the total sound of this recording, they’re only getting better with time. No stagnation due to longevity here!

The band is made up of Art Dekhayser on guitar, lead and harmony vocals, Les Bayer on banjo and harmony vocals, Mark Farrell on fiddle and harmony vocals, Allen Cohen on upright bass and David Bressler on mandolin, lead and harmony vocals.

Dave is also the writer of the five original songs presented here. Dave sings lead on the gospel song “Road To Gloryland,” and Art sings lead on “Blue And Lonesome” and “Never Thought I’d Get Over You.” The other two originals are both instrumentals and they really show off the bands musicianship.

On the CD’s title song, “Flight Of The Phoenix,” they are joined by guest lead guitarist Bob Harris, and it turns into hot lick heaven. The other instrumental, “Methuselah Mountain Breakdown,” has Les’ banjo absolutely cookin’ and fiddle and mandolin harmony lines that are classy, tasteful and tight. The only video I could find on YouTube of the band has them performing this song, and their live version is as good as the original.  (VIDEO INCLUDED BELOW POST)

I find it interesting that Dave wrote this last song on a dare. I guess the object was to come up with a song that used every major chord in it. I think he definitely succeeded! Dave is a very gifted song writer….. he must know that inspiration is always just around the corner and you have to be ready when it presents itself. These five songs are the highlights of this CD to me, and if Dave had written five more just as good, which I think is entirely possible, this entire CD effort could have been even better that it is. Get to it Dave! I dare you to write some more good ones! You’re on a roll here and it won’t be long before it’s time to record another CD!

The other seven songs are a mixture of country and bluegrass classics, and the band makes them their own at every turn. The very first song, “Who Done It,” kicks this CD into high gear right away, and it’s another of the songs that guest guitarist Bob Harris sits in on. Up until this CD, my favorite version of “Shackles And Chains” had been by Mac Wiseman. This version is my NEW favorite. Good stuff! Don Williams would probably like the way the guys do his tune “Lay down Beside Me” because they nail it. They end the CD with the old standard “You Can Have Her.” It took me a while to remember that Waylon Jennings did this one, too. Again, I like The Yankee Rebels version of this one best. I almost forgot “Behind These Prison Walls Of Love.” I sure do like the song selection here!

I had listened to this CD for several days before I even got a chance to look at the liner notes, and my first impression was how the songs all flowed so well from one to the next. Quality time was spent on what came where and when. Nice….. It was also apparent that every song was a good one. I thought I knew which ones were the originals, but it took checking the liner notes to be sure. Dave should be proud that his songs fit so well with the older musical gems.

It should be noted that what appears to be the sixth man in The Yankee Rebels line up, Bob Harris, is also the producer. Mr. Harris recorded the band at Ampersand Records USA, in Bridgewater, New Jersey. He also mixed and mastered the final takes. His efforts and talents were very much an asset to this project. It’s obvious that the working relationship he has with the band members is a special one. For a recording to sound this warm, pleasant and technically cohesive, it takes everyone involved to give 110%.

I have the utmost respect for this band….. for them to have stayed together this long, playing the music they love, is a feat they should be proud of. And the best part is that they have grown into a powerful unit that keeps right on trying, pushing and expanding their horizons. I can hardly wait to hear what their next CD is going to sound like…..

Yep….. this CD needs to be in your collection.



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