O Brother, Here Art Thou

Lonesome Pines plays bluegrass the way it was meant to be played

From the first bars of Lonesome Pines' debut, After Sundown, you know this is more than good bluegrass. Sandy Weltman cracks a Scruggs-style banjo lick, Thayne Bradford chops his mandolin just in time with Vince Corkery's bunkhouse bass and Gary Hunt rives through a Jimmy Martin G-run. The band isn't just tight; they're hermetically, soulfully sealed. When Bob Breidenbach's Dobro starts to moan, you know this is bluegrass the way it was meant to be played, laid down by men who know what it means to play it.

With other bands, including the Orbits, Farshid Etniko and the Rockhouse Ramblers, individual members of Lonesome Pines tackle every roots genre -- save bluegrass. These five, each unheralded masters of their instruments -- and Bradford is still the best country singer in town -- return to their youth, years spent listening to and learning from the Dillards, John Hartford and Bill Monroe. And partly because he's learned so well from his mentors, Hunt reveals the light, fine touch of an enduring country songwriter.

Even after the chart-busting old-time sounds of O Brother Where Art Thou? (contrary to the opinion of know-nothing critics, bluegrass it ain't), bluegrass remains, along with gospel, the most misunderstood and neglected of American musical traditions. Perhaps its cultural elision owes to its difficulty, or perhaps it owes to those rural and Southern roots -- qualities that remain anathema to most hipsters. "Something's missing, and I keep wishing for those days long ago," Hunt sings on the title track. Whether or not he's casting a cold eye on our contemporary musical scene, he's right. But nostalgia doesn't drive Lonesome Pines. They recognize that, be it a Martin guitar from 1945 or a bebop solo from Charlie Parker, some art forms can never be duplicated. But they can be transformed and ecstatically celebrated. Don't miss this chance to hear Lonesome Pines do just that.