You can take the country out of the gentlemen, you can take the gentlemen out of the country, but, once in, you can't take the country out of the Country Gentlemen. Or The Circuit Riders, in this case. Four of the five Riders were once part and parcel of the famed Country Gentlemen at one time or another, with a fifth dipped in CG sauce, and they bring everything they learned to the Circuit Riders' table.
The one thing the really good bluegrass/country bands have is balance. The Riders are no exception. Four of the five sing and the harmonies are topnotch. All are exceedingly proficient on their instrument, whichever one they have in their hands at any moment. Three write, and write well. And all have a sense of purpose. What it all adds up to is "Let the Ride Begin", another fine bluegrass/country outing.
If picking is what you crave, the Riders give it to you in huge doses. Greg Corbett's banjo and Billy Gee's bass are as solid as they come and are the bedrock of the beat. Greg Luck's guitar is smooth as glass without going overboard. When Darin Aldridge is not hiding behind the band as rhythm, he carries the band to new heights. And there is Jaret Carter. Resophonic guitar players are popping out of the woodwork these days, incredible musicians like Pat Wictor and Randy Kohrs who speak volumes with their instrument. Add Jaret Carter to the list. Like Wictor and Kohrs, Carter has the innate ability to make a good song better or a great song amazing. And that's when he doesn't solo. Give him a solo and he really shows you what he can do.
As for songs, they give you a variety. Pickett's Charge: An instrumental written by Carter just for this album, its theme and variation is perfect fodder for each musician to show his worth. Each takes his stance upfront, Aldridge eschewing mandolin for guitar and Luck picking up the fiddle, but it is Carter's chance to shine. His fingers are masterful and the result makes you lean toward the speakers just to make sure you're really hearing what he's doing.
Gospel is a part of any decent bluegrass band's repertoire and they give you enough to slake the thirst. Steve Wilson's Colder and Colder and Michael Burgess' In the Master's Glory are reminiscent of older Seldom Scene and whereas there will never be another John Duffey, rest his soul, the Riders do them justice. If you're a Duffey fan, you can almost see him backstage singing along.
Greg Luck's Lonesome Wind is straight out of later Hot Rize, and if you have not heard them and you think you know bluegrass and old-time music, you don't. At least, the modern equivalent of. Carter's slide work makes it better than it is, and it is really fine.
And there is country. The Fall, Katie and Burl. Take Me Back To Old Kentucky and Mama, What Does Heaven Look Like There are as good as they come, having that look back to the days of country and western without the western. These guys are smooooth.
You can't really call this a first effort what with the years of playing and recording under these guys' belts, but it is. It is their first time under the same umbrella in that configuration and when you look at it that way... Still, it's what is in the grooves, regardless of band history, and these guys lay it out. Their ride has begun. I'm with them. Let's ride.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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