The Coal Porters

The Coal Porters

The Coal Porters

Find the One

Prima Records

How is “Alt” Bluegrass different from regular Bluegrass? I can’t pin it down; maybe it’s just marketing. Either way, this band sounds like it ought to be on A Prairie Home Companion. Robin and Linda Williams could blend right in without a hitch. The instruments are traditional: mandolin, Dobro, banjo, violin (aka fiddle), and the occasional auto harp.

The arrangements are full and luscious, and the songs generally reflect on the joys of life. “Barefoot on the Courthouse Lawn” praises a summer’s festive gathering, and the bittersweet cover of Bowie’s “Heroes” takes on a more positive tone played with a Dobro. This band is based around Sid Griffin, formerly of The Long Ryders. Dig around in the included documentary and you’ll hear the cautionary tale of his days with Western Electric, a more rocking group. The drummer crashed a car and asked the band to only play acoustic stuff till he was back. Too bad, Sir Metronome, the acoustic stuff caught fire and he was out of a gig.

Besides Griffin, there’s Neil Robert on guitar an Carey Frey sawing away on the fiddle. It’s her vocals on “Never Right His Wrong,” and like all really good fiddle music it’s a heartbreaker of a love song that just makes you feel SO GOOD.

The only real complaint here is the disc I have in hand is one of those enhanced CDs so you have to jump through some hoops to get to the music if you don’t want to play the disc using the built-in menu. Depending on your level of audio portability, you might want to just go to the iTunes version and skip the physical. But whatever you choose, you can’t miss with this timeless collection.

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