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The Chill of Lonesome
Reviewed by:  Joe Ross
5/16/2009 12:00:00 AM

Doobie Shea Records DSCD-2004
http://www.doobieshea.com OR http://www.erniethacker.com

Songs included: 1. Little Piece of Land, 2. Father Son & Holy Ghost, 3. Another Piece of My Heart, 4. Momma Preached & Daddy Plowed, 5. Old Kentucky Home, 6. Old Barn, 7. Own Brand of Misery, 8. The Chill of Lonesome, 9. Highway of Sorrow, 10. Whiskey & Women, 11. Old Time Drunkard

Ernie Thacker is a young man who first came to bluegrass prominence as the mandolin player, then lead singer/guitarist, with Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys from 1988-94. He now leads his own band, Ernie Thacker and Route 23. “The Chill of Lonesome,” Ernie’s debut album on the Doobie Shea label, delivers the bluegrass goods with a tight, highly-arranged new traditional sound with a country edge characterized by professional vocals and instrumentals. I expect that Thacker’s music, coupled with his youthful energy and great stage presence, will soon earn him an Emerging Artist of the Year award. Guest musicians on the project include Dan Tyminski, Ronnie Bowman, Ronnie Stewart, Adam Steffey, Ben Issaccs, Rob Ickes, and Mountain Heart's Steve Gulley.

Besides featuring one of the finest (and heartfelt) singers in bluegrass today, this album has some first-rate material from contemporary bluegrass writers like Keith Tew, Ronnie Bowman, Jerry Williamson, Junior Sisk, and Mark Mathewson. Each and every song has a message, and Thacker is a masterful storyteller when he sings about faith, home, family, misery, loneliness, sorrow, whiskey and women. Raised with traditional values in Ohio, Thacker probably relates most closely with the songs, “Momma Preached and Daddy Plowed” and opening track, “Little Piece of Land.” Danette Tew’s gospel song, “Father, Son & Holy Ghost,” is a hard-driving offering. “Another Piece of My Heart” is a song that re-creates the classic country and bluegrass sound of the 1950s, and it would’ve been a good one for Flatt and Scruggs. “Old Kentucky Home,” a collaborative song by Ronnie Bowman and Don Rigsby, has the potential to become a bluegrass standard. Mathewson’s “Old Barn," is a nostalgic piece that recalls a time when things were made well. “Your Own Brand of Misery” is straight-ahead bluegrass with a common theme we hear in the music when a past love that can’t be forgotten becomes tortuous. The album title cut, “The Chill of Lonesome,” tells of the feeling coming on when your heart sinks low. Thacker also demonstrates a strong level of comfort interpreting traditional numbers like Bill Monroe’s “Highway of Sorrow.” If confused about life, the song, “Whiskey and Women,” tells us that a drink will drown the heartache and a woman will bring you back around. The album closes with “Old Time Drunkard,” and a warning that corn liquor will be your death in the end.

With only eleven cuts (and a total playing time of slightly over 33 minutes), The Chill of Lonesome left me with an anxious feeling of wanting to hear much more soon from Ernie Thacker. For an album full of heart and soul, and great musicianship, I highly recommend this one. (Joe Ross)

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