Current Issue Details

Buy Current Issue

Reviews > CDs

It All Comes Down To A Song – David Via and Corn Tornado

While the spotlight upon bluegrass has begun to protract, the beam leaves an
appreciable number of bands in the umbra. Certain acts appeal to a specific
niche, such as Yonder Mountain String Band or the David Grisman Quintet, but
true bluegrass, which conceivably should garner acceptance amongst the
jamband fans, is often neglected or lacks the promotional elements to set
itself forth into the shining light.
All of which makes David Via and Corn Tornado a candidate for some promotion
and verbiage. On the album It All Comes Down to a Song, Via and his
compatriots meld guileless songs with New Grass Revival-styled jams. From a
vocal standpoint, only one other artist can match Via’s sonorous tenor,
where he amalgamates soul and blues into a rich fixture. With brevity in
mind, David Via and Corn Tornado are the finest bluegrass, jamgrass and
vocal group not signed or presently receiving accolades throughout the
country. Other bands have achieved commendation, but few are of the caliber
and panache of Via’s cadre.
After the first track, very few listeners would have the verity to counter
such claims. When Via – along with John Flower, Daniel Knicely, and Dave Van
Deventer (both of whom are included on Keller Williams’ latest) – sing,
"That trumpets blow across the hillside/ Cant you hear that thunder roll/ I
hear the angels softly singing/ My lord has come to take me home" on the
opening That Trumpet’s Blowin’, either the three-part harmony, the
vivacious mandolin solo or the lyrics will raise the bucolic spirit hidden
within the listener. The speed, panache and overall mastery of the bluegrass
idiom makes That Trumpet’s Blowin a metaphor for the bands arrival
and commanding entry into the genre.
Other tracks such as I Wrote this Song and the title piece are more
sluggish, with pensive elements enveloping references to music, love and
abandonment. Of interest might be the title track, which exposes the
dilemmas of performing music within the jamband scene, as songs are disposed
of in favor of long, desultory jams. When Via croons, "And I’ll sings songs
of religion, some about the moonshine stills / I’ll sing about the good
times, in my home up in the hills," the band’s desire to vanquish the
self-aggrandizing jams becomes the goal.
This does not mean Via and Corn Tornado cannot "jam." The six-and-a-half
minute Corn Liquor, which agglomerates blues and funk, features Via’s
most menacing vocals and the band’s ability to make four acoustic
instruments buzz with an electrical charge. Sounding reminiscent of New
Grass Revival circa 1977 (complete with slide guitar instead of slide
mandolin), the band reveals an aggressive, disdainful approach which
remained dormant throughout the album. Via’s vocals, an esoteric mixture of
John Cowan and Sam Bush, growls through the song’s soulful sections, and
becomes mellifluous when necessary. Comparing his voice to Cowan’s, one of
the finest to grace bluegrass, again establishes a sense of separation from
the myriad of other bands currently chopping through a tired repertoire.
Whether or not David Via and Corn Tornado will be ushered to the front row
of the steadfast jamgrass movement remains unanswerable. A band which can
combine technical ability, both musically and vocally, and songwriting has
not been heard since New Grass Revival’s dissolution in 1989. Some current
bands whom have received such comparisons appear diminutive placed next to
Via, Knicely, VanDeventer and Flower’s intuitive interaction. Maybe Via and
Corn Tornado will have to wait until someone such as Emmylou Harris covers
their songs, as with Gillian Welch, who remained in anonymity until Harris
recorded Welch’s classic Orphan Girl.

Show 0 Comments