A diamond of a genre straddling record
Reviewing albums is akin to buying three bottles of wine for £10 in a supermarket. Without fail the wine will be palatable. Occasionally you will open a bottle with a non-descript label and, during the first sip, know you’ve discovered something very special indeed. You then have a dilemma; do you keep it a secret or do you scream it from the rooftops?
The Overmountain Men are just that bottle of wine and they will remain our little secret, won’t they?
The band revolves around Bob Crawford - bass player in the Avett Brothers - and singer David Childers with a host of musicians from the Carolinas. THE NEXT BEST THING is their second album, and it opens with the breathtaking All Out of Diamonds which is a playful way of describing a man’s failed marriage and refusal to commit to another woman. David Childers' soulful voice sounds like well-worn Spanish leather and the rootsy backing had me sitting back in my chair, desperate to hear more.
This is immediately followed by a Talking Blues history lesson, Halls of Glory, about Teddy Roosevelt. That tune will remind you more than a little of Burl Ives in its delivery, and I can’t give higher praise than that.
We get another history lesson with the delightful, piano-and-fiddle-accompanied Alexander Hamilton (one of America’s ‘founding Fathers’ – apparently). It has a hook and a chorus that will stick in your mind for a long, long time – “It’s a short life/and I’ll not pretend/ it’s not easy being me.” I want that printed on a t-shirt.
There isn’t one poor song anywhere on the album. But, the one that I find I keep returning to is Death is So Romantic, which has a cool banjo accompaniment and is about the carefree swagger that young people have. It will strike a chord with those of us who either have teenagers or came out the other side of such a lifestyle.
Poison Cookies merges Folk-styled singing with Bluegrass banjo and some pretty funky Blues harmonica to create a modern song that sounds very traditional.
THE NEXT BEST THING is the very embodiment of Americana and/or Roots and Folk music with nods in the direction of Willie Nelson, Gordon Lightfoot, Bob Dylan and, of course, Burl Ives. I can’t recommend it highly enough.