Bluegrass Unlimited July 2015
MISS DIXIE, TOM T. AND ME
Blue Circle Records
When a band comes within the orbit of Blue Circle Records,
it reaps the benefits of access to the masterful songwriting of Tom T. and the
late Dixie Hall. Cedar Hill has been in that orbit since 2007. This is their
fourth album for the label and, like so many Hall songs, comes with a story.
Mandolinist Frank Ray had suffered some personal tragedy and, more or less,
quit music. Tom T. and Dixie wanted to help, so they lured him back by offering
ten new songs for him to record, which is what this recording represents.
Those ten songs have the classic Tom T. and Dixie mark on
them. There are songs with catchy phrases, such as “This Ain’t No Way To Run A
Railroad,” in which a man struggles to meet his girl coming in on a train.
There are great story songs, such as the touching encounter a man has with a
“Hound Dog From Harlan” or the family that trashes their farm by “Burning Down
The Barn” after losing their property to the bank. There’s the humor and
brilliance of “Aunt Penny,” who turns out to be Uncle Pen’s banjo-playing
sister, and there’s the sentimentality of “Let’s Go Walking Again,” and the
betting imagery (hearts, diamonds, jokers, and putting it all in the pot) of
“Love Is A Gamble.” They’re all good songs, some of them very good and better.
Frank Ray and Cedar Hill (which includes banjoist Jim Bunch
and guitarist/vocalist Britt McGarity, along with newcomers, bassist Patti
LaFleur and fiddler Pete Brown) are a wonderful choice to put these songs
across. They seem to understand almost intuitively the Hall’s ethos and style.
McGarity, who has since left the group, also has a voice suited to the
material, a storyteller’s voice—warm and inclusive. All of that together brings
very good results. (Cedar Hill, 11503 Landers Rd., Rogers, AR 72756,www.cedarhillbluegrass.com.) BW