Blueground Undergrass 2007-04-13

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Blueground Undergrass

When Chris and I first started the thejivefather I envisioned scouring the archives like some modern day Alan Lomax. Turning over the heap to find previously undiscovered music. So far, all of my entries have been about bands I have some familiarity with. There are many reasons for this. It is much easier to crank out a post on a band you know than one you don't. I recently started a new job that is not conducive to active listening. Enough excuses. Enough of self reflection. For this review I wanted to discover a band I knew nothing about.

With that said, Bluegrass Underground is hardly an unknown band. They have a catalog of music that stretches back to 1999. Founder Jeff Mosier played with Col. Bruce Hampton, and notes in his biography that he "shared the stage" with Leftover Salmon, Widespread Panic, Vassar Clemens, and Phish. The rest of the current Blueground Undergrass is David Blackmon is on mandolin and fiddles, Johnny Mosier on guitar, Kyle Spark on bass, Mark van Allen on pedal steel, and Vic Stafford on drums. For this review I downloaded their latest release Faces from

Blueground Undergrass mixes the gamut of american roots styles in a very raw and informal way. So many bands shoot for this, but in the process end up loosing their voice. While I found them to be a bit too smooth on Faces, this live show carries enough edge to make them convincing. Take the supercharged bluegrass "Clintch Mountain Backstep" and "Old Joe Clark." I would have loved to be there for those tunes.

There is a bit of old AM radio country in "Lay Beside Your Mother." I should have played it on Mother's Day. Would have looked like a hero. I found the expanded version "Ole Love, Ole Tune" from the live show more meaningful than the pop infused version on Faces. Plenty of tight bass riffs. The cover of Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are a Changin" is way out there. Not to be cynical, but I was laughing a bit during the "group thinking is not thinking" part. Guess you just had to be there. Two other soulful highlights is the cover of "Helpless" and their song "Renee." There is a lot there to enjoy and take in.

The live recording is direct from the mixing board, so the mix is not optimal for home listening. It took me a couple of tracks to become comfortable with it. Thanks to Travis Viars for transferring and posting this show. Sound quality is B+ and runtime is 2 hours and 26 minutes.

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