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Album Review

Great albums from Dry Branch Fire Squad are nothing new. The band's lineup has changed slowly but fairly constantly over its 25-year history, but the commitment of its leader, mandolinist, and singer Ron Thomason to the various strains and traditions of old-time and bluegrass music has never flagged. Nor has his sense of humor, which is legendary. His voice, on the other hand, is aging somewhat, not that that really detracts from the pleasure of his singing on traditional favorites like "While Roving on Last Winter's Night" and the Ralph Stanley gospel rave-up "Two Coats." He sounds best of all here on "Black Lung," a hair-raising miner's lament that he sings in a spare, stark arrangement in duet with Hazel Dickens. The whole quartet kicks in for the rollicking gospel number "I'll Live Again," and there are a couple of great instrumentals as well, including Thomason's mandolin showcase, a Bill Monroe tribute titled "Nazeer, Nazeer (Nazeer, Nazeer)." The program's only misstep is a rather dull and overlong rendition of "Midnight, the Unconquered Outlaw." Highly recommended overall.


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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Hand Hewn, Dry Branch Fire Squad
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