Thank goodness for indie labels like Rural Rhythm Records. Audie Blaylock’s not the type to generate much major-label interest these days. He puts music before image, and actually plays his own instrument. He sings in the time-honoured high lonesome style, isn’t afraid to declare his faith, and delivers a collection of classics with unadorned and unaffected honesty.
In short, Audie’s about as opposite as one can get to prevailing pop standards, and given the current musical climate he’s unlikely to generate much of a buying frenzy – certainly not enough for the majors.
Blaylock isn’t an innovator – this is timeless music, sounding as though it could easily have been recorded in the distant, dusty past. Yet Blaylock and his Red Line outfit bring it all to life with exuberance, enthusiasm, and extraordinary skill. Material is all covers, with the majority of the tunes dealing with heartache and loss – witness titles like “Two Lonely Hearts,” “My Darling’s Last Goodbye,” or “Lonesome Weary Heart.” There’s not much joy or happiness here, but that’s always been the paradox of bluegrass … somehow all that musical suffering sounds wonderful when delivered in four-part harmony, with driving guitar, banjo, acoustic bass and fiddle providing an irresistibly propulsive backdrop.
Other fare includes classics from the likes of Bobby Osborne (“You’ll Never Be The Same”), Jimmy Martin (“Goodbye”) and the traditional gospel of “Who’ll Sing For Me.” It’s all performed impeccably, both instrumental and vocal contributions combining skillful precision with relaxed abandon. It’s amply obvious that participants are genuinely enjoying proceedings, working together to create a sum greater than constituent parts – this is a true team effort, with individual efforts woven into a seamless tapestry of sound.
Bluegrass has never been a particularly commercial form of music, and it’s almost a given that purveyors do it for love, not money. That kind of sentiment doesn’t sit well with international conglomerates, though, so thanks again for Rural Rhythm Records, the kind of label willing to work with smaller numbers because great music matters more than the bottom line. Music should, after all, be aimed at the heart, not the wallet. Audie Blaylock and Red Line hit the target squarely with a heartfelt and delightful collection.