Tuesday, May 12, 2015

CD Review of Springfield Exit—THAT WAS THEN

Image635670036044847754That Was Then is the latest release by the Virginia based Bluegrass group, Springfield Exit. This offering consists of fourteen cuts with all but one of those (the Bob Dylan jam chestnut, You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere) feature the lead vocal talents of Linda Lay.

This project features Ms. Lay so much that the group could actually be called Linda Lay and Springfield Exit and that is not a bad thing. Her singing is ‘spot on’ with regard to pitch, tone and good taste. Her vocals are easy to listen to and, at least on this CD, she doesn’t attempt material that is ill suited for her vocal range or out of step with her artistic persona (no head-banging or rich, syrupy lyrics). Linda’s material, here, is largely thematic, laid-back and allegorical.

Ms. Lay is accompanied by her husband, David, on guitar and vocals; Tom Adams on banjo; David McLaughlin on mandolin, banjo, fiddle, guitar and vocals and Marshall Wilborn on bass. All are seasoned musicians and their performances here are nothing short of excellent.

The overall feel of this CD is traditional Bluegrass, plus. The title cut, That Was Then and This is Now, is a bluesy, original that is one of my favorites. Written by bassist Marshall Wilborn, it prompts the question, ‘Why didn’t they use more original material?’ Also, George Cunningham, a gnarly ballad about an ax to the head and a neck to the gallows, is another piece I particularly enjoyed.

Perhaps my only reservation about this CD are some of the song selections. With so much excellent material throughout the project, why include overdone, jam pieces like Some Old Day? Or The Eagle’s, Peaceful Easy Feeling? Or the aforementioned, You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere? Though these songs are performed here with the same professional-level integrity as the others, they seem slightly out of character for the band and this project. The issue certainly is no ‘deal-breaker,’ only an observation that is subject to individual interpretation.

That Was Then is a high-quality recording that I believe most Bluegrass fans will enjoy. The recording quality, mixing and mastering are nothing short of par excellence. The sound is warm and quiet, yet sparkling in all the right places. The musicians and vocalists represent the epitome of traditional Bluegrass music, yet with a hint of progressive flare mixed in. That Was Then is a fine effort that I find easy to recommend. MR

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