May 6, 2015

Redstone Ramblers: Graveyard Gospel Review

(Independent Release) For their new album, Redstone Ramblers vocalist and guitarist Mark Wilmot and bassist Mike Flynn recruited what seems like nearly every notable name in Athens roots music. Graveyard Gospel sounds like an early-evening bonfire in late summer, a cheery gathering of friends pickin’ and grinnin’ their way through a case of something cheap and cold.

Bluesy and free, Graveyard Gospel’s charm lies largely in its guest list, from Claire Campbell to Levi Lowrey to Col. Bruce Hampton, who is responsible for the album’s single spoken-word track. They all sound like they’re having a blast, even if the songs feel unfinished and the mixes are often rough.

The album’s rawness is its greatest strength and its biggest liability; songs like “Thinkin’ bout Drinkin’” lend themselves to looseness, while “Crossroads Fine,” with its arrhythmic guitar solo, just seems sloppy. The Ramblers are at their best when they embrace pure pathos, as on the weeper “Crawled in the Bottle,” featuring Bloodkin’s Daniel Hutchens, or “Coulda Stayed,” a gentle, accordion-laced lament that’s really quite lovely. 

Redstone Ramblers play Oglethorpe Fresh in Lexington on Friday, May 8.