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Long List of Heartaches

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Album Review

Only two years into their career, the Grascals have delivered a sophomore effort that confirms their refreshing 2004 debut was no fluke. It's not that this bluegrass/country sextet is doing anything that hasn't been done before: unlike some of the more daring "newgrass" groups of the past few decades, the Grascals aren't so much interested in expanding the parameters of the genre as they are in rekindling the adventurous spirit that birthed it in the first place. That isn't to imply that the Grascals are some sort of modern-day Bill Monroe or Flatt & Scruggs retread. They're no more about retro than they are about fusion. While their associations with mainstream country artists (Dolly Parton guested on the debut, George Jones and Steve Wariner are on this one) do nudge the group just far enough away from the rote rules of bluegrass to keep things interesting, and there's enough experience and ability among the members to take the music just about anyplace else they wish it to go, they find plenty of space in which to forge an original sound without reaching toward deliberate eclecticism. That phenomenal players and singers populate the group is, of course, the main reason they can pull it off so effortlessly. Terry Eldredge and Jamie Johnson split the lead vocals, and each possess both the requisite crystalline tenor and familiar twang endemic to bluegrass, as well as the gift of being able to ease into flawless harmony with bassist Terry Smith and banjo speed demon David Talbot. Fiddler Jimmy Mattingly establishes his chops right out of the starting gate with his raging intro to "Home," the album's opening track, and mandolinist Danny Roberts is adept at reeling off both lightning licks ("Will You Be Loving Another Man") and mournful, bluesy ones ("Did You Forget God Today"), the Aubrey Holt-penned gospel ballad that's so divine — helped along by the Jordanaires' harmonies — that even atheists will shed a tear. Just to make sure no one's left out, the instrumental "Cut Your Wheels" gives everyone a chance to strut. The Grascals call on a number of different songwriters to provide the material for Long List of Heartaches, from stalwarts Merle Haggard and the aforementioned Monroe and Lester Flatt, to Wariner, whose clever "Hoedown in Motown" makes for the perfect, kicking album closer. All's not serious either: Harley Allen's self-deprecating "Being Me" is good for a few laughs, and "Don't Tell Mama," a classic country disaster song featuring a recitation from Jones, is good for even more, whether intentionally or not.


Formed: 2004 in Nashville, TN

Genre: Country

Years Active: '00s, '10s

The Grascals are a contemporary bluegrass band formed in 2004 by seasoned Nashville musicians who also happened to be great friends. Each of the band's six original members had been performing bluegrass music for roughly two decades before forming the Grascals, and knew each other either from childhood or through professional gigging with artists like the Osborne Brothers, Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire, and Jimmy Martin, among many others. The group originally consisted of Indiana natives Terry Eldredge...
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Long List of Heartaches, The Grascals
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