August 14, 2008

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Blue Moon Rising, One Lonely Shadow
Lonesome Day Records, Aug. 5

Neo-traditional bluegrass in the manner of a less optimistic Infamous Stringdusters, part of a generational shift tacking away from the scratched-record vibe Earl Scruggs helped invent with his toothless-hillbilly-in-the-corner evocations. East Tennessee’s Blue Moon Rising rely heavily on covers to fill their fourth album, five-odd originals fitting seamlessly into a picture highlighted by a rework of Robbie Fulks’s “Where There’s a Road,” an irresistible slice of unworried pick-and-grin that would have easily worked as montage material on the soundtrack to Cars. Unplugged guitar, mandolin and banjo alternate frontline duty in the lovey-dovey original “Angeline,” one that should keep Ricky Skaggs coming back as a fan. One critical ingredient to the genre will never change, the storyteller, and it’s represented exquisitely in both the divorce bummer “I Grew Up Today” and the spooky “Hanging Tree,” an Edgar Allen Poe-like tale whose running denouement isn’t too predictably explained. The one major misstep is a cover of “Youngstown,” Bruce Springsteen’s dimwitted jacking of Bob Seger’s “Turn the Page.” B+Eric W. Saeger