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This debut CD from local bluegrass group, the Virginia Daredevils is a very welcome addition to my CD collection. Sad to say, I have stacks of local/regional band's records on my bookshelf gathering some dust, but this one got ripped right to the iPod. The Daredevils are the brainchild of Bobby Miller on mandolin and vocals, who's musical resume is long and esteemed. The four other core members are Griff Martin (Guitar/Vocals), Bill Cardine (Dobro), Billy Constable (Banjo), and Stefan Custodi (Upright Bass.) The guest musician list on the album is impressive and includes Bobby Hicks and Don Lewis.
The CD starts off strong with a bouncy three minute track. Judging from the title "Clayton Lunsford Died" I expected a murder ballad, or a sad waltz, but was surprised to hear Miller and Martin harmonizing about the celebration of life at the protagonists funeral. I was already intrigued with the CD...
Equally divided between vocal tunes and instrumental numbers, the album has a very nice flow to it. Each instrumentalist get a chance to shine, and the interplay between all of the soloist is captivating. Martin's guitar playing, both rhythmically and lead, is impressive and dead on. Miller seems to be channeling John Hartford at times, particularly on the track "Boots on Betsy" though sounding distinctly like himself on the one John Hartford cover included on the album, "Scotland/I'm Still Here."
The title track, "Brother Adieu" is the standout track. This is a traditional song that's been done hundreds of ways by hundreds of bands, but Miller and the DareDevils managed to bring something uniquely their own to this recording. With a dissonant melody line that has an unexpected progression, and the spot on harmonies by Mary Lucey Cardine (who's vocals many of you have probably missed since the disbanding of the Biscuit Burners) perfectly complementing Millers resonant lead, the Daredevils completely reinvent this song, and have solidified it for me as the best version I've heard.
Brother Adieu falls into that vague 'New Appalachian Country' genre... bluegrass, newgrass, old time, progressive... and distinctly Appalachian. This is the CD I want in my car stereo as I drive along the Blueridge Parkway, just outside of Asheville.