One Riot, One Ranger
Hayden’s Ferry Records 98042
Review by Art Menius for Bluegrass Unlimited March 1999
Long and Slow Decline Do You Dream About Me? Goodbye to Galax Truck Stops and Pretty Girls Roll the Rock Away Who’ll Stop the Rain? Sunset Girl Long Black Veil Shiloh I Think I’ll Fall In Love Rain Fallin’ Nothing Like Mexico It Must Be Heaven
Having once waxed a cover of a Pere Ubu song, Ohio’s One Riot, One Ranger doesn’t fit easily into any musical category save such broad neologisms as Americana and alt.country. Like most baby boom musicians, they have absorbed a bewildering variety of influences. Nonetheless, Side Tracks reveals that One Riot, One Ranger is more a bluegrass band than anything else. The influences of the Dillards and the early Country Gentlemen come through pretty clearly despite some strong cowboy music vocal inflections.
That’s not to suggest that One Riot, One Ranger is a conventional, much less traditional, bluegrass band. Their exceptionally well crafted vocal harmonies, supporting three different lead singers (Mark Wyatt, Mark Gaskill, and Chas Williams), owe much more to the Sons of the Pioneers than to the Blue Grass Boys. Western music also introduces the occasional accordion and harmonica to their otherwise straight acoustic line-up of guitar, banjo, bass, mandolin or fiddle, and resonator guitar.
One Riot, One Ranger offers ten good to better original songs along with three covers, the latter including an excellent cover of Jim & Jesse’s “Truck Stops and Pretty Girls” and a disappointing reading of CCR’s “Who’ll Stop the Rain.” The new material contains some very good stuff such as Gaskill’s hook-filled “Do You Dream About Me” and Williams’ “Roll the Rock Away” and “Shiloh.” One Riot, One Ranger deserves kudos for exploring their own sound, not that far removed from mainstream bluegrass despite the western vocals. Side Tracks is a very pleasant album, but only a step along their journey in developing the potential of that sound.