Published Jul 22, 2014When three members of the Foggy Hogtown Boys set off to conquer the world of old Appalachian bluegrass, they did so with a fiery ambition in their fingers. Chris Coole (banjo), John Showman (fiddle) and Max Heineman (bass) make up the Lonesome Ace Stringband, a Toronto-based trio that have held regular shows at the locally famous Dakota Tavern for the past three years. Their debut album, Old Time (impressively recorded in two days without overdubs or edits) is a collection of quick-picking blue mountain bluegrass with intermingled love ballads, hoedowns and blues.
The blistering speed of the well-rehearsed Lonesome Ace Stringband is what stands out from the start. It isn't until the third track, a classic longing composition "Fox Hunt," that the boys slow the tempo and offer a romantic glimpse back in time. Retrospection is a prominent theme in Old Time (as the title obviously indicates); the traditional songs are fascinatingly arranged and provide listeners with a genuine experience of how bluegrass may have been performed in its heyday. The sound is nostalgic and sentimental, and effectively identifiable with an Appalachian era that has long since passed.
Coole, Showman and Heineman rarely deviate from classic instrumentation, perhaps best typified by leaving only the double bass to provide rhythm and fringe percussion. Old Time's track arrangement is instrument-based, with many voiceless hoedowns separating songs with vocals, which is a shame considering the premier tracks in this collection are those with singing ("Hills of Mexico" and the aforementioned "Fox Hunt"). The back-to-back instrumentals becomes convoluted near the end and, although it provides each player ample opportunity to show off their talents (especially Showman's fiddle on "Femme Indigene"), the similar instrumentation, tempo and air becomes indistinguishable and borderline redundant. With so much talent left to give, I am hopeful for the Lonesome Ace Stringband's next release. (Independent)