The Right Kind of 'Grass

The Famous Lefty Flynn's (Rounder Records)
The Grascals

By Kevin Gibson

The Grascals might be considered "newgrass" to some purists, but they're difficult not to like for pretty much any ear that appreciates the art of bluegrass music. Traditional instruments, excellent picking and vocal harmonies that carry interesting stories with a sense of story telling? Sign me up.

And you have to like a bluegrass band that opens its album with a stomping cover of "Last Train to Clarksville," which, of course, was made popular by the Monkees in the 1960s.

One track of particular is the heart-breaking ballad "Satan and Grandma," featuring an allegorical lyric about the trials and tribulations and ultimate resolve of a woman facing and staring down right vs. wrong. Later in the album, "My Baby's Waiting on the Other Side" takes the bluegrass in the opposite direction, firing away at a furious pace with fiddles and banjos blazing in anticipation.

Another track of note is "I'm Blue, I'm Lonesome," the classic Bill Monroe/Hank Williams tune. The recording captures the mournful heartbreak of the original and includes guest vocals by Hank Williams Jr.

The title track, meanwhile, tells a prison story centered on a legendary criminal. The harmonies and sweet melodies blend beautifully with the strings, while getting out of the way of the story about a new inmate meeting the famous Lefty and plotting a breakout with him.

The disc finally ends with the gorgeous standard "Give Me Jesus." Not a band way to end a bluegrass, and all in all, this is another strong addition to the Grascals' growing lexicon.

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