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Published: 2001/11/21
by Chip Schramm

NewGround – Blueground Undergrass


"NewGround" is the second studio release and third overall from the north
Georgia bluegrass fusion posse, Blueground Undergrass. The album marks a
significant point in the band's history, as it is the first studio album
with their current lineup, as well as the first with almost entirely
original songs. As a band famous for their live jamming at festivals and
club shows, "NewGround" presents a much more subdued, almost stripped-down
version of the songs in their current repertoire. Most of the songs on the
album are related to basic life lessons and traditional themes, as sung and
interpreted by the banjo and vocals of Rev. Jeff Mosier.

Everchanging Moment seems to be a personal song for Mosier and the
band. Appreciating good times, and enduring through the hard, they seem to
take their fortune in stride. Life Is Short reiterates similar
sentiments of grasping the moment and making the most of their resources, in
light of momentary opportunities. Eastern Star Road is a pastoral
tale that draws inspiration from the simplicity of home. Both simple and
sincere, these songs seem to represent a band that is happy with its lot,
but not resting on its laurels.

The band also draws upon biblical themes and gospel tradition with songs
like Judas and Road To Damascus. This seems to tie in with
Jeff Mosier's skill as a story-teller as well as the Mosier family's musical
history in the churches of Georgia and Tennessee. Edward Hunter, fiddler for
Blueground, sings lead vocals on the latter tune. Indeed, one of the
indications of the band's maturation is the sharing of vocal duties beyond
Jeff Mosier. Pedal steel maestro and album producer Mark Van Allen sings
admirable vocals on Johnny Webb's Highwayman. His gruff yet fluid
vocals are comparable to a Willie Nelson's in style and tone.

In addition to vocal collaboration, there are also some instrumentals on the
album with shared influences. Dickey’s Reel was penned by Johnny
Mosier and is a more lively bluegrass stomp than compared with Why'd You
Have To Leave, which was written by Van Allen. Tiny Little Butter
Biscuits is a short Jeff Mosier bluegrass original, and probably the
oldest song on the album. It was the original song that he taught to the
members of Phish back when he was tutoring them on bluegrass music during
their fall 1994 tour. Midgets Under My Bed is the final track on the
album, and serves as humorous tribute to Col. Bruce Hampton, Jeff Mosier's
mentor from back in the days of the Aquarium Rescue Unit.

Overall, "Newground," is a good description for the music contained on the
album. There isn't any kind of furious jamming or any evidence of live
improvisation on it. However, the listener gets to hear Blueground
Undergrass at the very roots of their creative process. Mark Van Allen did a
commendable job in the production and mixing of the album, and deserves lots
of credit for the way the songs actually sound. The band's rhythm section
has also gelled nicely, making the recording of such an original album
possible. For those who want to experience personal interpretations of
modern folk and bluegrass music, "Newground" is well worth seeking out.

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