Author: Karsemeyer, John

This Is Not Your Uncle Earl

What’s black and white and red? “Many things,” you may say, and you’d be correct. But among those many things is one thing that brings us into the world of bluegrass music. More specifically it is the cover jacket of the latest (5th) compact disc released by the Earl Brothers, “Outlaw Hillbilly.”

From the opening track it is readily apparent that this is not a soft, easy listening musical project that echo songs from the Bluegrass Fathers of yesteryear, which many bands these days attempt to emulate. All the songs here are original creations by Robert Earl Davis, T. Willie and T. Lucas.

Make no mistake; these songs come from the dark side. But from that dark place there is a light at the end of the tunnel. And it is a light that radiates the color blue from the first to last cut. With Robert E. Davis on banjo and lead vocals, James “lil jimmy” Touzel on bass, Tom Lucas on fiddle, Thomas Willie on guitar and tenor vocals, Bill Foss on mandolin, and Jody Richardson on fiddle, the listener of this CD is kidnapped.

Kidnapped, held captive, and then taken along a musical journey to witness an unthinkable occurrence near the Missouri-Arkansas line, the inner outlaw potential in all of us, the euphoria of new romance that inevitably evolves into cheating and lost love, and finally taking that first difficult step from your painful past into a new optimism.

The bluegrass band, “The Dillards,” made their way from the Missouri Ozarks and ended up in the “City of Angels” here on the west coast some forty or so years ago. In this writer’s opinion the Dillards eventually sold out. Sold their birthright of primitive, raw, grab-ya bluegrass music for a slick, mellifluous sound that could be heard drifting from the radios of Mercedes Benz and Ferrari autos on Hollywood Boulevard. Playing it forward to today, a sound that might be something like Elvis Costello backed by a bluegrass band from Nashville (that did happen, didn’t it?). Not so with the Earl Brothers.

The Earl’s may be based in San Francisco, but their sound assures you that their music comes from a piece of the Ozarks transported, that mystically is now a twilight zone that exists in the San Francisco Bay Area.

There is a high probability that the Earl Brothers will never win the IBMA Entertainers Of The Year award, but maybe that is a good thing. A good thing for those of us who still like bluegrass as it was meant to be (evolution notwithstanding). The backwoods-back-story of human nature set to bluegrass music, that is.

This latest Earl Brothers CD could easily replace the soundtrack for the move, “Deliverance.” And quite possibly be our deliverance from the bluegrass music that now makes its way to our ears from Nashville’s Music Row.

On this CD you won’t find any cover tunes from the singer song writer Steve Earle, or from the Old Time all girl band, “Uncle Earl.” But you will find the real-deal Earl Brothers that heighten your musical sensibilities and transport you from a perfunctory, pedestrian, city way of life to an Ozarkian dark hollow. A hollow that echoes the speed of the sound of bluegrass in its most primitive, untouched, and astounding way.

The mix here is good, the band members have a command of their instruments, and know when to play and when not to. Recommended, especially if you’ve misplaced your bluegrass roots and want to find them again.

Posted:  9/8/2012

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