NO TURNING BACK
By The Lonesome River Band
Teri Ann McLean
There isn’t a thing with Sammy Shelor’s name attached
to that is less than perfect, and Lonesome River Band’s album “No Turning
Back” released in September 2008 is no exception.
The album starts off with a bang… or in this case, a couple of bangs! The
first track on the album, “Them Blues” is a song that gets you movin’ in
your seat and singing along right from first listen, although I think it
gets off to a weak start with Brandon Rickman’s rhythm guitar. I would
have preferred a fuller sound to begin the song and the album. Perhaps a
banjo “kick” would have been a better choice for this hard-drivin’ song.
The urge to get up and dance continues right into the second song, the
mid-tempo number “Like a Train Needs a Track,” which is destined to be one
of several hits off the album. If you find yourself up and dancing to the
first two numbers, the band gives you a chance to rest with the slower
“Dime Store Rings,” a song with a typical country topic… teenagers who are
broke and in love - they marry and life is tough, but their love – which
is as “big as the Texas sky” – sees them through. Although it’s a topic
we’ve heard before, it’s certainly not a song we’ve heard before, as LRB
adds their distinctive sound to a very familiar bluegrass/country theme.
Songwriter Marvin E. Clark’s One Little Teardrop is the Lonesome River
Band we all know and love and is, in my opinion, the best track on the
album. Brandon’s lead vocals and the backing harmonies are reflective of
the sound that Sammy Shelor has managed to keep throughout all the
personnel changes this band has experienced over the years.
Wires and Wood has a darker sound to it and may very well be one of the
best songs I’ve heard written about an instrument. The line “She sure did
keep me company the night old Clayton died,” is something that most, if
not all, musicians can relate to. What picker hasn’t had times in his (or
her!) life where he’s felt like his instrument is his only friend?
Things pick up speed again with Somebody’s Missin’ You, another true-to-LRB
style. Sammy shines on this number, and I couldn’t help wonder as I
listened how is it possible that someone who’s already a master of his
craft can get even better with each new release.
I’m Not There Yet is an “I’m-getting-over-you” number, but again, somehow
the band manages to make you feel as if you haven’t heard this topic a
thousand times before…. it’s a great bluegrass song right down to the
requisite train analogy. Mike Hartgrove’s tone, which is especially
evident on this number, adds to the emotion of this song.
There is one surprise on the album - the song Flowers written by Billy
Yates and Monty Criswell. The subject matter and Brandon’s singing on this
brings tears to the eyes, as the song was meant to do. Rickman’s vocal
triplets are heartbreaking, but the “surprise” is the piano on this
number. It may not be bluegrass, but it works, and Lonesome River Band can
pull it off like probably no other bluegrass band can. I’d venture to say
that Sammy Shelor and the Lonesome River Band don’t break the rules – they
make the rules in contemporary bluegrass.
I always look forward to a new Lonesome River Band recording. I own them
all, and this one is bound to become one of my favorites.
~Teri Ann McLean, Mar 2009
Host of “Something Borrowed; Something Bluegrass”
The Bluegrass Mix