BlueRidge Side By Side

Take the flawless mandolin playing and gentle, down-home vocals of Alan Bibey, surround him with the cream of traditional bluegrass instrumentation (guitar, fiddle, bass and banjo) and you’ve got yourself a band worthy of its namesake. The current popularity of the genre doesn’t hurt. Nor does the fact that the band’s sound from ’99’s debut, Common Ground, has been buttressed by the addition of Junior Sisk (vocals/guitar) and Ed Biggerstaff (vocals/bass), Alan Johnson (fiddle) and Joey Cox (banjo). Which leaves Bibey as the sole continuity to the band’s sound (although Sisk was part of ’02’s Baucom, Bibey & BlueRidge release), but you wouldn’t know it from this record that seamlessly blends old and new with aplomb. In fact, this revamped band sounds like they’ve been playing side by side for years and their superb three- and four-part harmonies keep them firmly planted in a camp that is more bluegrass than newgrass, in keeping with true mountain tradition. Highlights include Bibey’s sinfully sweet mando-led breakdown on the instrumental "Avalanche,” while cuts like "Before The Sun Goes Down” showcase Sisk’s legitimately lonesome-sounding lead vocals. This band is skin-tight if not a tad conservative. Then again, it is this very combination that will prove their advantage. (Sugar Hill)