RANDOM CANYON GROWLERS –
DICKEY AIN’T GOT ALL DAY
2012 – Self Released
It doesn’t seem long since string band recordings, certainly modern day ones, were very few and far between. We now seem to be deluged with them. That’s not a complaint. I love this stew of old timey and modern, but they are now so thick on the ground that it can sometimes
be difficult to tell some of them apart. The singing is always good and at the same time generally has that edginess of old, whilst the instrumentation and playing is usually up to the same standard. Is the day coming when we can expect to see them in the pop charts? Probably not, but it definitely seems as if there are moves back to this traditional old style of homemade music, sometimes resurrecting songs from decades ago, other times using newly written originals of their own. Something that most of these young bands, certainly the ones I’ve heard, have in common, from the Old Crow Medicine Show to the Hackensaw Boys and so on, is real musical expertise and quality on which they stamp their own individuality and it’s pleasing to say that the Idaho based Random Canyon Growlers are no different in that respect.
The band lineup seems to have changed a little since they made this album but at that time consisted of Jamie Drysdale on lead vocals and guitar, David McMeekin on banjo and vocals, Brian Paugh, fiddle, John Carl Degroot, lead guitar, Matt Donovan on bass and were supplemented by Ben Winship on mandolin, Brian Wicklund on fiddle and Brock Benjamin on banjo. Most of their songs are written by either Jamie Drysdale or David McMeekin, with one co-write by the two plus four non originals including an excellent version of Don Robertson’s Born To Be With You. There is nothing
hugely original in their music, but the same can be applied to most other bands that play in this style. What you do get though is some really good original songs, as well as the few oldies, plus some excellent playing, lead vocals and tremendous harmonies. This is a sixteen song package that ranges from several murder ballads to tales of lifes ups and downs and includes slow moody tales as
well as plenty of up tempo songs, all pointing to what is probably a tremendously varied live show that this band put on.
The album kicks of with Drysdale’s With You Beside Me, a nice piece of whimsy that declares that no matter how bad life becomes, love can overcome any set backs and includes some beautiful harmonies as well as excellent fiddle and banjo playing. Far more down to earth is his sharply
observed final song on this excellent album, Keep Your License Plates Green, a tale of modern life and keeping options open, again with some tremendous vocals and playing. Between these two contrasting songs are more tales of life, love and murder with an excellent version of the Country gentlemans classic Travelling Kind that holds it’s own with the original. McMeekin’s Afraid
To Go Home, alludes to the fact that you can spend too long away from your roots, whilst the co write between these two excellent songwriters, Guilty of Murder, tells a quite grippingly dark tale of a man trying to escape his fate following a double murder. This is a tremendously atmospheric story that
has a hard driving banjo and fiddle pushing the song along at a sometimes furious pace as befits a man on the run! McMeekin’s Alaska basin is another tale of murder, this time told from the perspective of the man hung by the brothers of the murdered sheriff, following a robbery that went
wrong! The sad haunting Blood Whistle, with it’s gorgeous harmonies and playing is another highlight as is the Drysdale penned instrumental, Mad River breakdown. In fact, despite not all songs being quite so strong there is nothing that smacks of just being filler, unusual considering this album contains sixteen songs.
As I said earlier, not a hugely original album, but certainly in the upper echelons of modern day old timey/bluegrass music. If you love American acoustic folk music you will, in all probability,
love this terrific album.