A Force to Be Reckoned With

Marching Home (Cross Roads Music)
Balsam Range

By Bob Mitchell

Balsam Range, an extremely talented band, provides plenty of listening pleasure on their debut album for Cross Roads Music. The project is a first class showcase for five super pickers and vocalists who display more than a great deal of potential. Their intelligent arrangements, packed with drive and feeling, clearly establish these boys as a force to be reckoned with.

The recording features six classic Bill Monroe songs and two original tunes written by band members. "Marching Home" grabs your attention from a super charged opening track ("The Train's Ready") and keeps your attention to the last track (an innovative cover for Bill Monroe's "Traveling This Lonesome Road." Marching Home, a masterful presentation of bluegrass, exposes listeners to remarkably varied deftly arranged selections including a slice of contemporary sounds that allow the boys to stretch out while remaining true to traditional confines.

Highlights include three Monroe covers. "I Hear a Sweet Voice Calling" (with Doyle Lawson), "Goodbye Old Pal" (with Jimmy Van Cleve) and "Come Back to Me in my Dreams" (with Joe Diffie). Other noteworthy selections are "Burning Georgia Down (with Tony Rice) and the lively instrumental title track by band member, Marc Pruett.

Based in North Carolina, Balsam Range consists of five men native to a region filled with the rich musical heritage of the Appalachians, a cultural heritage steeped in the traditions of The Grand Ole Opry and the influences of Scotch-Irish settlers. Marc Pruett (banjo) played on five albums with Ricky Skaggs (including the Grammy winning "Bluegrass Rules"). Caleb Smith (guitar) has performed with Doyle Lawson, Larry Sparks and Paul Williams. Smith Caleb (guitar) won the 2006 Power Grass Music Award for male vocalist of the year and guitar player of the year.

Darren Nicholson (mandolin) won the International Bluegrass Music Association's Album of the Year award has toured with Alecia Nugent and Audie Blaylock and Redline. Tim Surrett (bass) has played on the most prestigious stages in the music business (Carnegie Hall and the Ryman Auditorium) and has recorded with Ralph Stanley, Larry Sparks and Don Rigsby. Buddy Melton (Fiddle) has recorded and shared the stage with artists such as Rhonda Vincent and Porter Wagner.

The band's debut album should receive rave reviews from fans and critics. On a five-point scale of excellence this release merits a five.

For more information go to www.crossroadsmusic.com