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Music Review: Iron Horse – A Boy Named Blue: The Bluegrass Tribute to the Goo Goo Dolls

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One cannot mention music of the nineties without including the acclaimed rockers from Buffalo, NY, the Goo Goo Dolls. With mega-hit songs including “Slide,” “Iris,” “Here is Gone,” and “Stay with You,” they have been able to keep their music on the airwaves successfully for the past 20 years. In honor of the band, an Alabama-based bluegrass group, Iron Horse, released a tribute album in summer of 2009 on CMH Records. A Boy Named Blue: The Bluegrass Tribute to the Goo Goo Dolls covers 12 of the Goo Goo Dolls' greatest hits, showcasing bluegrass in its truest form.

Iron Horse has previously released bluegrass tributes to bands like Metallica, Led Zeppelin, and Modest Mouse. Their ability to transform rock into an authentic bluegrass style is impressive, but it's not for everyone. This tribute, in particular, would be most enjoyable for those who regularly enjoy bluegrass or those extreme Goo Goo Dolls fans who want another collectible for their shelf. There is not much room for those in between. Fans who just enjoy a great Goo Goo Dolls song on the radio from time to time may be taken aback by the twang and faster-paced versions of these songs.

The use of mandolin and banjo on the songs is at times beautiful but awkward at others. The album opens with “Better Days,” which the Goo Goo Dolls originally recorded as a beautiful piano ballad. It's almost difficult to listen to the faster, banjo-plucking version after having the original already ingrained in your brain. The lyrics are also a bit too epic for the simple campfire feeling that comes with the bluegrass style. While the members of Iron Horse are clearly talented musicians, the translations just come across as cheesy without the mystery of John Rzeznik’s voice. The songs that work the best are "Acoustic #3" and "Sympathy" because the acoustic influence in the original recordings makes the transition to bluegrass a smoother one.

It seems safe to say, however, that the Goo Goo Dolls themselves must have been honored by A Boy Named Blue as one of their own, drummer Mike Malinin, contributes to the album. Joining Iron Horse on three tracks—“Iris,” “Black Balloon,” and “Stay with You”—Malinin even wrote new percussion especially for this tribute.

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