THE DIXIE BEE-LINERS, “Susanville,” Pinecastle. 19 tracks.
Concept albums are rare in bluegrass. So the Dixie Bee-Liners’ “Susanville” is definitely worth checking out.
The band says the album “peers into the cars and trucks in America’s cities and towns, bringing to life 19 breathtaking musical moments along America’s interstates and byways.”
Well, actually, there are only 15 songs on the album including two instrumentals of 36 and 28 seconds respectively. There’s also a yawn, an announcement that the trip is starting, a warning to turn back and an announcement that the trip is over.
“It’s a soundtrack to a movie that plays in your mind,” mandolinist Buddy Woodward says on the band’s Web site. “Each song is a vignette about a different person in a different car or truck in a different highway in America, and they’re all headed either to or from Susanville.”
Susanville is a northern California city of 13,000 or so.
The Bee-Liners, a band born in New York City and now based in Virginia, is an eclectic group that writes its own material and isn’t adverse to having fun with bluegrass.
Instruments — in addition to mandolin, guitar, fiddle, banjo and bass — include toy piano, piccolo frog, bouzouki, cello, pedal steel, drums, mellotron, harpsichord, Hammond organ and piano.
At times, the album has the feel of ’60s psychedelic rock fused with bluegrass. It’s an interesting concept.
The first track, “Heavy,” finds a couple arguing. “Restless” is about a woman “trying to outrun this demon in my head.” “Road Hog” is about a truck on her bumper.
Other songs include “Truck Stop Baby,” “Eighteen Wheels,” Trixie’s Diesel Stop Cafe,” “Lead Foot” and “Brake Lights.”
The songs work better as part of the whole concept than they do as individual material. But the title cut is a beautiful ballad that can stand on its own anywhere.
Brandi Hart and Buddy Woodward are the vocalists and writers. Bandmates include Rachel Renee Johnson, Jonathan Maness, Jeremy Darrow and Sam Morrow.
Hart says “Susanville” is the “first of several bluegrass concept records we’ve been planning.” That’s something to look forward to.
Can’t find it in stores? Try www.dixiebeeliners.com.