Southern Rail (Turquoise)
Format: CD, cassette

By Gary W. Brewer

First, let me open this review by saying that what I may consider good music and all-around talent is my sole opinion! You must be your own judge. I like my steak medium-well; you may like yours rare. However, it's still steak! So let's keep an open mind.

Southern Rail is a foursome that has a lot of originality. From near Boston, Mass., these northern folks have put forth their best effort here for you.

Drive By Night is a 13-song collection. It consists of seven original tunes, with the rest being, for the most part, standards. The quality of the recording is superb! The tones are clear and recognizable, and I feel the credit goes to engineer Bill VornDick.

One of my favorite cuts is "Drive By Night," a burning instrumental written by banjoist Dave Dick. It features good, solid, melodic and chromatic five-string at its best, as well as some kickin' fiddle by special guest Ray Legere from Canada.

Another favorite, "One Too Many Memories," is a good song, but I feel it should be slowed down a little bit to achieve maximum clarity and to enable the listener to understand the words that are being sung.

Traditional fans will enjoy "Joy Bells" and "Ramshackle Shack On the Hill," as well as a fine gospel tune, "By the Side of the Road," a song I sing in church. It is recorded here with guitar and mandolin only and features The Southern Rail quartet. A fine job.

Guitarist Jim Muller handles the lead vocals with sincerity, as well as the majority of the writing credits. Especially noteworthy is bassist Sharon Horovitch who plays a good, solid bass with timing and clarity, and covers all the tenor vocals.

In a nutshell, Drive By Night is a good project. The northern style of bluegrass is well represented here! One major negative point is that there is no individual or band information whatsoever! As a professional entertainer I feel that this is a common error that is made too often. After all, what are liner notes for? Also, I feel that the inside flap was created poorly because it has a comment card placed on the back of a fine black-and-white photo of the group. If I purchased this CD I wouldn't want to send the picture away for the sake of my comment, would you?

(Gary Brewer is a well-known bluegrass musician who fronts the bluegrass group Gary Brewer and the Kentucky Ramblers.)