CD Review - Blue Ribbon Waltz 
The Hunger Mountain Boys
Metroland - September 22, 2005

The Hunger Mountain Boys
Blue Ribbon Waltz (Old-Fi)

In the 1930s, singing brother duos accompanying themselves on acoustic guitar and usually mandolin were among country music’s biggest stars. Bill and Charlie Monroe, the Louvin Brothers, the Blue Sky Boys and others laid the cornerstone of bluegrass, and, via the Everly Brothers, even influenced the Beatles’ vocals. The Hunger Mountain Boys—Teddy Weber and Kip Beacco of Great Barrington, Mass.—have reached back to the Depression era to revive this rich duet sound with their second record, Blue Ribbon Waltz. Although it doesn’t top the pinnacle of the style, superpickers Tony Rice and Ricky Skaggs’ 1980 collaboration Skaggs and Rice, acoustic music fans will love the disc nonetheless.
As with their first CD, Fashioned in the Old Way, Weber plays guitar and dobro and sings tenor, and Beacco handles baritone vocals, mandolin, fiddle, and guitar. Both are polished pickers, although the guitar is too low in the mix at times. Accurate harmony singing as well as strong instrumental chops is crucial in this genre, and with the exception of a few flat notes at the top of Weber’s range in a couple of cuts, they’re dead on pitch.

The 13 songs on the record range from hard-driving uptempo tunes to slower weepers. Eight are originals that could pass for chestnuts from the heyday of the country brother acts, which is just fine. Highlights include “Dreaming,” in which the pair switch between call-and-response singing and their usual two-part harmony, and “Cry Away the Years,” a waltz-time original about divorce with a memorable line in the chorus: “For way too long, we’ve gone on snipping each other’s wings.” Weber plays dobro once on “Cold Feet,” and Beacco’s smooth fiddling also gets a single cameo on “I’ve Had a Big Time Today.” The title cut, “Blue Ribbon Waltz,” a sweet, restrained instrumental, concludes the disc.

Kudos to the Hunger Mountain Boys for revisiting a neglected corner of American music and getting it right.

List of Metroland Stories by Glenn Weiser                          ©2005 by Glenn Weiser. All rights reserved.


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