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Scratch Gravel Road

Special Consensus

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Album Review

Banjo picker Greg Cahill has been leading Special Consensus for more than 35 years, and they're still as eclectic and polished as ever. Cahill started the band to feature his take on roots music by blending bluegrass with blues, swing, newgrass, and country music. The current lineup features Rick Faris on mandolin, David Thomas on standup bass, and Dustin Benson on guitar; all three trade off on lead vocals and harmonies. They don't waste any time, either on-stage or on record, and kick the album off with four of the album's strongest tracks. "Old New Straitsville Moonshine Run" is a traditional showcase for the band's speed and picking with Thomas' strong vocal supported by blazing solos from Faris, Benson, and Cahill that mimic the velocity of a moonshiner driving down a moonlit road. "Monroe," an homage to the father of bluegrass performed in his style with former bandmembers Josh Williams and Chris Jones adding their solid harmonies. Faris sings lead on "Sea of Heartbreak," the Don Gibson hit reinvented as a midtempo ballad. "A Good Problem to Have" may well be the album's standout; a song that reminds us to count our blessings, even when they include minor problems like flat tires and cranky bosses. Thomas delivers its inspirational vocal without sounding overly sentimental. Other standouts include "Jacklene," a Cahill instrumental featuring producer Alison Brown on banjo. She plays a fancy harmonic lead with Cahill before breaking away for a concise jazzy solo. "On My Way to the Kingdom Land," an old hit for the Golden Gate Quartet, is given an a cappella reading that shows off the group's strong vocals. Tom T. Hall's "Trouble Let Me Be" gets a bluesy arrangement with a hint of ragtime in its arrangement while "Sunday Morning Without You" is a strong country/folk tune with a hint of pop in its tune and delivery. ~ j. poet, Rovi

Biography

Formed: 1975 in Chicago, IL

Genre: Country

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Formed by banjoist Greg Cahill back in 1975, the Special Consensus have endured myriad personnel changes to survive for three and a half decades; their music strikes a balance between the traditional and progressive schools of bluegrass. When Cahill and the Special Consensus began recording for Turquoise in 1990 (Hey, Y'all), their lineup featured guitarist Martin Marrone, bassist Dallas Wayne, and fiddler Al Murphy; by the time of 1993's Green Rolling Hills, it had been altered to include Cahill,...
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Scratch Gravel Road, Special Consensus
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