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Blueground Undergrass
Faces
Landslide Records
www.bluegrassunderground.com


Blueground Undergrass has managed to combine the worlds of Nitty Gritty Dirt Band style country with that of bands such as The Grateful Dead, Leftover Salmon, and Phish. I wouldn't exactly call it bluegrass, but they're more of an Appalachian down-home country-rock jam band.

The band consists of five regular members: banjo/dobro player and vocals Rev. Jeff Mosier, fiddle/mandolin player David Blackmon, guitar player Matthew Williams, and bass player Francisco Fattoruso. Mosier has worked with the band Phish in the past, both as a bluegrass coach and an active member of the group. Jeff has also performed in other groups including Widespread Panic and Zambiland Orchestra. With the jam band background, among other things, and the country/bluegrass influences it makes for almost endless possibilities.

The title track starts out in a typical southern country form with the fiddle licks in the foreground and the banjo picking in the background. The combo of the fiddle and banjo are what really helps to carry the band. The next track is a cover of Guy Clark's 'Dublin Blues' where the banjo/fiddle combo with guitar picking help to really bring this song alive, and make this the best song on the album. After these tracks, the songs begin to sound very much alike in rhythm, chords and style. There are the exceptions such as the funk/jazz feel found in 'Our Feet', which seems pretty out of place in this type of album. It seems that the band is trying to gain an identity without knowing where they want to go with the music. The tracks tend to play much longer than necessary, which shows the jam band influence. The perfect example of this is 'Potter's Wheel' which drags on for nearly 7 minutes without any significant changes. It is of the same genre as much of the drone-ish bluegrass found in the film O Brother, Where Art Thou and some of the music put out by, except twice as long as it needs to be. On 'Clinch Mountain Backstep' there is some masterful fiddle and banjo work in the track's intro which flops when they introduce the electric guitar (I guess I am kind of a bluegrass purist…) and start playing random licks on the bass among other things. Luckily the last track, 'Black Muddy River', makes listening to the rest of the tracks worth it. It is a slow back porch, banjo pickin', blues and bluegrass dandy. Maybe I'm being a bit harsh on these guys, but combining the jam band with bluegrass ends up just sounding like another band you'd see at the county fair rather than something innovative.

On a production note, it seems like something was lacking as well. I think that if they had a better balance between instruments by bringing out the mandolin, guitar picking, and some of the other background instruments it would make for a much better balanced recording.

I don't particularly want to end on a negative note, because I actually enjoyed listening to the album and I think they have real potential. If you want to hear an upbeat country-ish album, this would be a great choice as long as you are expecting to hear many different styles and longer tracks.

-Liger Woods

Track List:
1. Faces
2. Dublin Blues
3. In This Life
4. Our Feet
5. Feel At Home
6. Clock Goes On
7. Like Discovering The Ocean
8. Renee
9. Potter's Wheel
10. Clinch Mountain Backstep
11. Ole Love Ole Tune
12. Black Muddy River


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Mike Doughty



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