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Published: 2003/07/28
by Glenn Alexander

Tales From Magic Stone Mountain – Cornmeal

Livin’ Love Records 004
Ever since O’ Brother Where Art Thou? ignited the spark that helped
bluegrass spread to the mainstream, bluegrass bands have been cropping up
everywhere. It is interesting to think why. Does the public have a primal,
screaming desire to hear bluegrass music? Well, yes. It is a soulful,
courageous, complex music that can inspire even the most soul-weary folk.
In order to have this effect, it needs to be played by people who are
dedicated to its intricacies and intensities.
Bluegrass has become a trend. Like any trend, people jump on the bandwagon
because they crave attention or a feeling of belonging; or maybe they
believe they have something to contribute to that upwelling of creativity.
If one is going to attempt to play bluegrass these days, either play
traditionally and do it real justice, or attempt to flush it out with hints
of other styles in hopes of creating something new and pray you don’t offend
anyone too much. Cornmeal doesn’t follow either one of these avenues,
leaving the listener confused as to what they’re trying to do with this
Even with catchy melodies, solid vocal harmonies, and a tight rhythm
section, Cornmeal doesn’t have the ingenuity to create something new and
refreshing out of a genre that is currently being diluted with bands
attempting to jump on the bluegrass bandwagon. At brief moments, they prove
to have something unique to say, but sadly, don’t have the foresight to
finish the thought. The fact that they have a drummer might be an attempt
to show they are different, but other bluegrass bands have attempted this,
and with mixed results, at best.
On "Lost Love," they show they are capable of solid vocal harmonies and
beautiful melodies. The banjo player opens the song wide open with a rather
unique, steady line of notes. This opening portion and the chorus are
distinct, catchy, and soulful. However, the meat of this song is nothing
new — it follows a pretty standard, archaic formula typical of country
The guitarist is capable of short, precise bursts, but flounders when he
attempts more extended endeavors, as apparent on "Magic Stone Mountain (Pt
1)". On this tune, he plays too fast for his fingers to follow and ends up
sounding sloppy, something better attempted in a live setting. When the
band drifts into a steady rhythm and attempts a jam, they show promise in
their moments of sparseness. The guitarist’s subtle fluctuations in his
chords add more depth to the song and giving it a certain diversity not
present in other parts of the song. But, just when the song seems like it’s
drifting into a long, steady jam, it moves back in to where it began,
leaving the listener disappointed.
Cornmeal’s songs are about the same old things: the outdoors, love, loss,
and friends. I suppose they sing about these commonplace things in the
hopes of connecting with the audience, striking a chord, maybe. They fail
at this because of perspective. Their lyrics are written as if the listener
has the imagination of a five-year old. They are simple, straightforward
details of life as seen by the observer. This, perhaps, is the album’s
biggest disappointment. We’ve heard enough singers tell us the woes of
relationships, and the mysteries of mountains, and these themes will
undoubtedly pop up again and again. So, what we need is a new perspective.
Someone to tell it like it is, but with an utterly unique perspective.
Cornmeal just doesn’t have this.

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