Author: Varner, Marty

Review: 'The Story of the Day That I Died' by Jr. Sisk and Rambler's Choice

I have swapped Welcome Column days with my dad. Here’s my review of a great new album.

Junior Sisk and Rambler’s Choice’s new release, The Story of the Day That I Died, remains true to his Virginia, traditional bluegrass roots, but has more flair than the others seemed to have. You can tell how much fun they were having making this album and how the band lineup staying together for so long is really improving their sound, and I don’t even know how that’s possible. The CD keeps the Rambler’s Choice formula with the first song being the title cut and probable early front runner for IBMA song of the year. The song, written by Ashby Frank, tells us the story of a man who is aware that his wife wants to divorce him for his stuff, so he fakes his death and goes to Mexico as Juan Monroe. My favorite part of the song and possibly the album is the great banjo playing by Jason Davis. While he is not a strong figure it seems throughout the banjo world, I have to assume he is underrated because he has such control of the instrument along with a very musical mind that can create licks others can’t imagine.

The second song on the album is a brilliantly worded song partly written by Ronnie Bowman called If the Bottle Was a Bible. With a bunch of figurative language throughout, the song is probably one of the best written bluegrass songs I have ever heard. With such lines as, “the flesh is weaker than what they’re pouring,” it is easy to tell why Junior Sisk decided to put this song on the album. The harmony vocals on the chorus buzz a lot as well, which raises the song to another level that not all bands are able to do.

The third song represents what I like most about Rambler’s Choice, which is their ability to drive a model song. “High in the Mountains” keeps the drive throughout the song with help from Jason Davis. What I found really pleasantly surprising throughout this whole album, but especially this song is the mandolin playing Chris Davis. The one thing, I believe that has been a weakness about the band has been the instrumentation but especially the mandolin playing, but on this album the mandolin breaks actually stand out along with his background licks. The other specialty of this song is the band’s ability to play with their three part harmonies so easily, and make it sound so tasteful.

The next song, “Another Lonely Day,” gives Junior a break from the vocals and gives the reigns to the bass player and tenor singer Jason Tomlin. While he is not Junior, Jason brings a lot to the table and his voice compliments Junior’s in a really nice way. This more melodic song is also a good change of pace from the songs that were before it.

Another reason why this album is my favorite of theirs is because on this one they decided to put on a rare instrumental. The traditional “Jesse James” doesn’t sound exciting, but the supporting parts of the band make it worth it. Chris David and Jason Davis are both able to breeze throughout with quick tasteful notes that consists of breaks on both sides I am certain would require an applause after it. This was a great idea because most people do not realize how ridiculously good Jason Davis, and Junior realized it was proper to put a song that would feature one of the best bluegrass banjos players out there today.

Altogether, this album is a masterpiece that is hard to properly compare to his past works that in my opinion don’t compare. While his past albums were great, it felt limited because the instrumentation seemed limited, but now with Jason and Chris Davis playing banjo and mando respectively, that is no longer a problem. Along with improved instrumentation, you can tell that this album is just funner by the album cover and the songs that the album consists of. I would recommend this for any type of bluegrass fan.

Posted:  3/4/2013

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