Outlet Records OUT 5001
Review by Art Menius for Bluegrass Unlimited January 2000
Savannah brings the talent and imagination of four bluegrass veterans to an eponymous debut, the first compact disc from Rod and Steve Shively’s reactivated Outlet label. Appropriately, Savannah includes guitarist and singer Bubba Chandler, a member of the Lost & Found when they cut three 1970s albums for the label and mandolinist/vocalist Roy Norton, a member (as was Tim Austin) of Silver Train, which cut a 1981 album for Outlet. The experienced Spider Gilliam on bass and since departed banjoman Lynwood Lunsford, late of the Sunny Mountain Boys and the Lost & Found, complete Savannah, while guests on this project included mandolin great Herschel Sizemore and Don Reno and Lost & Found veteran Steve Wilson on Dobro.
That put a wealth of ability and experience in the studio, and frequently the results show it. Savannah makes a great effort not to get pigeon-holed into a bluegrass sub-genre. Besides using original material from Chandler, Lunsford, Rod Shively, and Denny Robey, they cover all the bases from traditional bluegrass “Log Cabin in the Lane” and Noah Crase’s “Old Home Place of Mine” to John Prine, rocker J.J. Cale, and finally Jim Reeves’ maudlin recitation “Old Tige.”
In short, Savannah may possess the ability to cover so many bases, that it never quite settles on its own definitive sound. So easily can they move from straight bluegrass to progressive to “Old Tige,” no one track says “this is Savannah.” It makes for an enjoyable album that never bores or falls into a rut of sound-alike tracks, but it never hits a groove. By being a collection of songs rather than a fully realized album, “Savannah” blunts the band’s chance to get one or two recognizable cuts to climb the charts and for the ensemble to develop a signature sound.