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Echoes of the Mountains

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Album Review

Echoes of the Mountains, the first collection of new music from bluegrass, old-timey, and Southern gospel stalwarts Dry Branch Fire Squad since 2001's Hand Hewn, is as simple as the sky is blue, laying out 14 ballads, breakdowns, and tall tales that are as rustic, unfussy, and direct as the genres that cradle them. Founder, lead singer, and mandolin player Ron Thomason (the only constant since the band's inception in 1976) may lack the high and lonesome crooning abilities of other bluegrass singers, but his slightly off-key, Waylon Jennings-ish baritone adds considerable emotional weight to every track, be it rowdy and bold ("Dixie Cowboy") or downright heartbreaking ("Echo Mountain") — the latter will reduce anyone who ever loved a dog to a puddle of tears. This latest incarnation of the band, which also includes Brian Aldridge (guitar, mandolin, and vocals), Dan Russell (bass and guitar), and Tom Boyd (banjo, Dobro, and vocals), is as capable and tight as ever, trading licks on standout cuts like "Grayson's Train" and "Rovin' Gambler" and harmonizing like 30-year veterans on the gospel nuggets "(You Got to Pray to the Lord) When You See Those Flying Saucers" and "Power in the Blood," resulting in a batch of songs that ranks high amidst a career of highlights.


Formed: 1976

Genre: Country

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

The modern bluegrass band Dry Branch Fire Squad is dedicated to bluegrass, old-timey, and Southern gospel music traditions. Mandolin player and comedian Ron Thomason founded the Fire Squad in 1976. The earliest incarnation of the group included guitarist John Baker, banjo player Robert Leach, and bass player John Carpenter. Two years later, Mary Jo Leet became the group's vocalist. Dry Branch Fire Squad released a series of independent releases before signing with Rounder in 1978; they would stay...
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