Blue Canyon Boys,
Just an Ol' Dirt Road
(self-produced, 2005)

Though billed as a bluegrass band, the Colorado-based trio Blue Canyon Boys are not, strictly speaking, that. Those who know their country-music history will immediately detect the BCBs' link to the pre-bluegrass hillbilly outfits of the 1930s, specifically the brother duets (notably the Monroe Brothers, Bill and Charlie). These groups play a large role in the prehistory of the new country genre -- later called bluegrass -- invented in Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys in the mid-1940s. Gary Dark (mandolin) and Jason Hicks (guitar) are not, however, brothers, nor is the third BCB, Chris Goodspeed (stand-up bass). And even on Just an Ol' Dirt Road, with an expanded studio lineup, Scruggs-style banjo (or any banjo at all) is barely a presence.

However they identify themselves, the Blue Canyon Boys will appeal to anyone who loves traditional music served straight-up. Their choice in material is outstanding, and their originals stand comfortably next to the covers of venerable folk songs, gospel tunes and trad-country favorites. Though the originals are in-the-tradition evocations of the old country home, hobos and heartbreak, they manage to make them feel fresh. They're always tuneful, and the arrangements, spare and faithful to the old ways of doing it, miraculously don't feel imitative or stale.

Over the years I've heard other groups attempt to revive these old sounds. Even with the best intentions, the results are too often pointless and boring. Just an Ol' Dirt Road, on the other hand, pulls it off splendidly -- a model of how gifted musicians can breathe life into a moribund musical form. I am sure that even the old-time performers (nearly all of them long gone) from whom the BCBs learned would approve of this recording.

by Jerome Clark
21 October 2006

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