Strong From Top To Bottom, With Kentucky Flavor

On The Rise (Lonesome Day Records)
Blue Moon Rising

By Bob Mitchell

My review of Blue Moon Rising in Bluegrass Now (May 2002) said in part, "When a recording is as good as this appears it is difficult for a reviewer to know where to start. BMR, a talented band, is distinguished by incredible singing, song writing and picking." That's still my opinion.

In 2004, I returned to Louisville after a business trip and I was in need of a large dose of bluegrass so I headed straight to the Galt House for IBMA. As I walked down the hall toward the main stage, the music I heard raised the hair on the back of my neck and put goose bumps on my arms. It was just what I required and guess who it was? Right! It was one of the finest, hardest-driving bands in the business, Blue Moon Rising. Later, I met the men and learned just how committed they are to the preservation of traditional music. These boys flat out love bluegrass and play it from the depths of their soul. The guys clearly demonstrate their skills as they bear down on "Sling Blade," an original instrumental by Justin Jenkins (banjo) and Keith Garrett (mandolin). It just doesn't get any better.

Other outstanding tracks include "The Next Big Thing," which features commendable bass playing from Tim Tipton and the inventive dobro of Randy Kohrs. "Cold Kentucky Night" reflects the loneliness of a lost love and contains exceptional guitar work from Chris West. "Far Away From Home" features excellent harmony from the gospel trio. Garrett's mandolin chops are a steady driving force throughout, but I especially enjoyed his work on "The Old Time Preacher Man" (another West original).

Randall Massengill's harmonies are always tight but especially so on "Papaw Taught Me" (an original by Tipton and West). Longtime friend of Indiana and Kentucky Bluegrass fans Ron Stewart co-produced this release, assisted with mixing and mastering and demonstrated his amazing fiddling abilities on seven tracks, none of them better than "I Keep Callin'" (another West original). If that weren't enough, Harrodsburg, Kentucky's Justin Jenkins, just 19, is Blue Moon Rising's banjo player. He was a regular member of the Renfro Valley Barn Dance in Renfro Valley, Kentucky, from 1998 to 2003; in October 2003 he made his first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry as a special guest of Mike Snider.

BMR's third recording is destined to be one of the best of year. It is an energetic project that provides toe-tapping enjoyment from start to finish. On a five-point scale of excellence, this release merits a very strong five.

For more pickin', check out www.bluemoonrisingband.com.