Leave This Town Behind
Review by Art Menius for Bluegrass Unlimited February 1998
Out On My Own Mother You Cared Leave This Town Behind The Firing Line Snow Deer Lonesome Train Blues Walking in the Light of Jesus Living A City Life Lonesome Sound Bluegrass Yodel Explain to Me Tennessee Breakdown
Ohio’s Bluegrass Mountaineers, featuring Larry and Edward Efaw, have been playing traditional bluegrass for going on thirty-five years. They’ve appeared on the Early Bird Bluegrass Show at Fan Fair in Nashville and most of the important bluegrass events in the lower midwest. They feature a hard bluegrass sound and mostly fast tempo songs. Most of the songs on Leave This Town Behind work vell.
At their best, the Bluegrass Mountaineers exhibit a strong Stanley influence on original compositions by Edward Efaw, a good songwriter who penned ten of the dozen tracks. Although they include a mandolin, the first two cuts, “Out on My Own” and “Mother You Cared,” along with “The Firing Line,” prove outstanding examples of the Stanley inflected work with strong lead vocals from Larry Efaw. They could pass for lost classics of the 1950s. Veteran sideman Billy Rose helps out with strong lead guitar playing throughout and a nice banjo break on “Walking in the Light of Jesus.”
After this very promising start, the remainder of the album mixes good tracks with less successful ones. The latter seem designed to establish an original sound for the Bluegrass Mountaineers. In my opinion, they do best staying within the Stanley influence. “Walking in the Light of Jesus,” for example, offers excellent picking and harmony singing, but the lead vocals by Edward Efaw prove idiosyncratic at best. “Bluegrass Yodel,” exactly what the title implies, is an intriguing but not entirely successful experiment. The closing instrumental, “Tennessee Breakdown” brings the band back to the Stanley sound with superior clawhammer picking by Chris Smith.
A little more care would have gone a long ways on the album package. The details separate the OK from the very good, and a lot of details were let slide on Leave This Town Behind. I’m not talking about big matters, but rather erratic capitalization on the song titles, a stock photo for the cover instead of something original, misspelled words, six names appearing on the personnel list below a photo of a quartet. When you’re asking folks to fork over their hard earned cash, you have to give the impression that you’re committed totally to make the best possible project in every aspect.