CD Review – Balsam Range “Papertown”
This CD is a very refreshing and delightful piece of music. It is recorded in the fairly traditional bluegrass way. This group is five men, who got the name of their group from the Balsam Range of mountains in North Carolina that surround the area where they grew up around Canton, N. C., which is “Papertown“. It is a great collection of songs written by a varied group of writers. Mostly fast paced and upbeat with some very good bluegrass ballads too.
The five men of Balsam Range are very seasoned and talented. Caleb Smith plays guitar and sings. Smith is an excellent all around bluegrass guitarist, whether picking out a snappy solo or playing rhythm guitar. He also builds guitars on the side when he is not playing with Balsam Range.
Buddy Melton plays an excellent fiddle and sings some of the lead vocals. Darren Nicholson is their hot mandolin player. Marc Pruitt plays some very good Scruggs like banjo. Tim Surrett plays upright bass and sings backup vocals.
The production on this CD is very good for acoustic music, the instruments have a very realistic sound with excellent tone. The mix and mastering is very well done too, leaving you a disc that is very easy on the ears. It is quite close to audiophile quality.
The album starts out with a mid tempo ,love gone wrong song called “Other Side Of The Mountain.” The next song “Any Old Road” (will take you there), Caleb Smith sings lead on this song, He and Buddy Melton take turns singing Lead vocals, and sometimes one will sing lead on the verse and the other will sing lead on the chorus in the same tune. This is a mid tempo song too. It also has a very melodic bridge.
“Wide River To Cross” is a beautiful slow ballad. The instruments are quiet in the mix ,while Buddy Melton sings lead. Caleb Smith picks some fast guitar runs in “Day In The Life Of A Railroad Spike”, the fastest song yet.
Smith sings “Better Days”, a slow melodious song with some pretty fiddle. This song also has Surett playing some resophonic guitar which sounds very nice. “Row By Row” is a very melodic song sang by Melton, it is a gospel song.
OK, there is a little surprise here as I hear the guitar riffs to “One Way Out” ,a song made popular by the Allman Brothers which is sang in blues style by Tim Surrett, bass player. Caleb Smith really takes off on the single string guitar, making this song a fun break in the middle of the CD. Caleb Smith plays some more sweet lead guitar on “I Could Do You Some Good”.
“Papertown” is the story of the mill town Canton where they were from, a slow melodic song sung with lots of emotion. They finish the CD playing “The Stream Lined Cannonball” (Roy Acuff). They really get the tempo up here and this CD ends too quickly for me.
Yes, I really relished this disc as it shines forth Appalachian gold. Balsam Range is a real talented bunch on the Mountain Home Label. The art work on the four sided cardboard disc holder is very well done in Depression Brown. CD recorded at Crossroads Studio in Arden,NC by Van Atkins and Scott Barnett. Disc mastered by Van Atkins. A very well done recording in all aspects.