Another of dose of fine traditional bluegrass as the group changes label.
Seth Mulder and Midnight Run are a high energy bluegrass band from East Tennessee and follow in the footsteps of many great bluegrass bands of the last thirty years or so, eg Nashville Bluegrass Band, Blue Highway, Lonesome Standard Time, and Longview (whose guitarist Dudley Connell wrote the liner notes for this album). They comprise Mulder on mandolin, Max Etling (bass), Ben Watlington (guitar), Colton Powers (banjo) and their latest recruit, Max Silverstein, a very young but clearly an up-and-coming fiddle player from Maine. This is the classic bluegrass line-up and clearly the relatively recent addition of Silverstein helps to round out the sound on record, as he does not always seem to play with them live.
Talking of live, these guys have played at a local distillery five nights a week and now do around 200 gigs a year, and are clearly making a name for themselves, with their hard-driving traditional bluegrass sound. This is their second release and at a time when the boundaries of bluegrass are being stretched by the likes of Billy Strings and Molly Tuttle (who uses the same line-up), there is clearly a place for high quality groups to remind aficionados of the beauty of traditional bluegrass, and these guys fit the bill perfectly.
The general tone of the album is given away by the title as a number of songs dwell on longing to be somewhere else – ‘Carolina Line’, ‘Back to the Carolinas’, ‘The Mountains are Calling’ and the title track which has an interesting twist on the theme, as it focuses on the desecration of the mountains in favour of urban development “It breaks my heart to see what they’ve done The fields are all gone where I used to run Money and greed, but it’s never enough Oh, I hate what they’ve done to the mountains I love”.
The lively ‘One More Night‘, the very catchy ‘Your love‘ and the waltz ‘Picture of Me without You’ (a nice version of an oft-covered George Richey classic) are about lost love while ‘My My My‘ is an upbeat and optimistic song, as the singer’s girl is coming home.
There is a typical bluegrass gospel song ‘My God will set me free’, with a nice call and response chorus but the two standout tracks are a blisteringly fast instrumental ‘Bull Head Swamp’ and the closer ‘Ruby Ann’, written by Henry Warde, in which a Civil War soldier dreams of returning to Tennessee to his girl, but is stuck in a war zone with no way out “The rain it starts to pour the battle flag it waves once more And I’m fighting for our lives Ruby Ann As the bullets pierce my skin I am crying out again With my final breath I call out Ruby Ann”
Mulder has a typical high lonesome voice, as does Watlington who occasionally takes lead, perfect for these songs. The harmonies are spot on, as you might expect with a quality bluegrass outfit. The playing is faultless, too, with some outstanding banjo, mandolin and fiddle solos throughout, nearly all of which are short and very sweet. In a crowded marketplace, and if traditional bluegrass is your thing, this group should hit the spot, and you can be sure they are great live.