A Tour de Force of Bluegrass
While wandering through an assigned jamming area at IBMA 2005 I was stopped cold by some of the most energetic hard driving bluegrass I've heard. Five young pickers were clustered tightly together and laying down licks that knocked my socks off. The next morning I sat at a front row center table for the annual showcase brunch and the same band was on stage. This time, however, they knocked the socks off of a crowd of 500 or more.
H&RB, a talented ensemble based in Colorado, gave an exhilarating and unforgettable performance to an enthralled audience that would rather listen to bluegrass than eat. It was immediately apparent why they were one of only 19 bands selected worldwide to play there. Their creativity and dedication to the music insures them of a long bright future. Since their formation in 2002 they are winners of 2005 SPBGMA, 2003 Telluride Festival and 2002 Rockygrass Championships.
Without Maps, their second release, is a tour de force of imagination and hard work. Each track is robust and each musician contributes an integral component of their incredible sound. Rebecca Hoggan's remarkable guitar and heartfelt vocals are the driving force for this project. She is particularly impressive on "Any Day Woman," "Wind Moans Under The Door," a barn burning "Highway of Regret," and her original song, "Why Does This Old Town Look Better Now." Her extraordinary flat picking also garnered her a place on IBMA stage for the guitar masters workshop. One listen to "Flying In The Wind" and "Why Does This Old Town Look Better Now" explains why.
John Frazier contributes phenomenal work on fiddle, mandolin and lead vocals. Two original tracks, "Home Is Where I'll Ever Be," and "Lockdown for your Love" demonstrate commendable song writing skill. Another key to the band's sound is the formidable 2001 Rockygrass Dobro Champion Todd Livingston. He shines uncommonly bright on "Why Does This Old Town Look Better Now" and "Flying in the Wind." Equally impressive is the versatile and spirited banjo of Aaron Youngberg. I especially enjoyed his work on "Flying in the Wind." Rounding out H&RB is Erin Coats who provides a rock solid bass line and honest vocals, especially on "I've Kissed You my Last Time."
On a five point scale of excellence, this release is an exciting five. For more information, check out www.hitandrunbluegrass.com