All Aboard the Slo-Train

Music review by L. L. Demerle

In a word, superb. This first CD, a genteel, yet loyal spin on bluegrass, offers unusual arrangements skillfully laid out to keep the listener hooked throughout the playing of the CD and long after.

Slo-Grass begins with "Love Flows," an original tune by Paul Della Valle whose catchy lyrics and melody are sung by mandolin player Fran McConville. Something familiar about McConville's voice bends the ear and brings one in for a closer listen. Imagine a smooth Willy Nelson. McConville's voice transcends the lyrics, then demonstrates it's versatility in the mischievous "If You're Ever In Oklahoma" backed by David DiBiasio's scorching banjo. McConville follows through on his own "Friday Night," and Robert Johnson's conspicuously angst-free "Cross Road Blues" in the band's trademark style.

A reggae banjo and bass are the name of the "Heartbeat" game. Fresh and a bit quirky, this arrangement of Buddy Holly's classic is a delight and guitarist Mark Davis' vocals believable. Davis clearly tips his hat and offers well-paid homage to the traditionals. "Goin' Down The Road Feelin' Bad" is a strong and sassy second shot, followed by a classic "John Henry," and the haunting PPM favorite, "One Kind Favor."

"My Way Back Home To You" is a tender look into a romantic wayfarer's heart sung sweetly and steadily by bass player and production engineer Bob Dick, also bass player and vocalist for the bluegrass band Front Range. His bass is an essential which underlies the success of each song. Dick's voice is showcased again in "Love of the Mountains" and in the outstanding "Lost River," a poignant ballad of the river in the White Mountains of NH written by Rick Lang.

"Themes from the Godfather," provide a chuckle and a chance for McConville to demonstrate a sorrowful mandolin, crowned with yet another rousing DiBiasio banjo. More surprises in the instrumental department; "Please Don't Talk About Me When I"m Gone" boasts high-end musical shenanigans where the band cuts loose and shows their proficiency with their instruments.

Already recording a second CD, Slo-Grass' selections, arrangements and appealing harmonies offer something for everyone.

($15 for CD's, $10 for cassettes)
by mail
from EmeraldProductions
59 Donald Ave, Holden, MA 01520

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