Off to a Grand Start

Midnight Run (Mastershield Records)
Southern Skye

By Bob Mitchell

It is gratifying to hear a new, young bluegrass band both laden with talent and maturing appropriately. Midnight Run, the new CD from Southern Skye, contains a rich mixture of native talent and unbridled enthusiasm.

Eighteen-year-old Ben Jenkins, a founding member and high school senior, provides impressive banjo, Dobro and vocal harmony. Alex Leach, also 18, contributes solid guitar and mandolin, as well as lead and harmony vocals. (Leach, a disc jockey for WAVY in Knoxville, Tenn., won SPBGMA's DJ of the Year award in 2003 and 2005.) Nick Lyford (age 19) plays upright bass and provides some lead and rhythm guitar. Shelbina Ely, at 16, is a strong lead and harmony vocalist, and plays rhythm guitar. Also a songwriter, Ely performs classic country hits and enjoys clogging. Chris Riser on upright bass is a freshman at Eastern Kentucky University, and Alex Pearson rounds out the group on the fiddle and vocals.

This release, an inspired mix of familiar and not-so-familiar songs, displays a love for, and a commitment to, traditional bluegrass. Ely's vocals are sincere, no more so than on "Blue Ridge Cabin Home" and "Hold Me." Other highlights include a lively "How Mountain Girls Can Love" and a cleverly-worded tribute to departed artists, "Bluegrass Up In Heaven." The harmony work is solid, especially on "Satan, Oh Satan." The banjo, mandolin, guitar and fiddle fills and breaks are melodically satisfying.

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