Karl Shiflett & Big Country Show – Worries On My Mind
When Karl Shiflett’s quest to revive late 1950s honky-tonk bluegrass for contemporary audiences led him to hire a snare drummer to play the parts that can be heard clearly on that era’s records, the reaction from the self-described bluegrass faithful — hitherto his biggest boosters — was swift and predictable. Faced with a choice between imaginary “authenticity” and an authentic re-creation, they opted for the former in droves, and bookings plummeted. Shiflett dropped the drummer in the course of a major personnel change just weeks before Worries On My Mind was released, and that was that.
Too bad, because even though Billy Box wasn’t an outstanding drummer, this is a strong album, arguably Shiflett’s best. His singing is still too often over-the-top, but the material — more than half of it written by former Big Show banjo player and tenor singer Jake Jenkins — is excellent, and when Jim Lauderdale turns in a guest vocal on Jenkins’ “How Wrong A Man Can Be”, the continued artistic viability of the honky-tonk bluegrass sound is proven beyond any doubt.
Kris Shiflett’s booming bass shuffles as well as any Cherokee Cowboy’s, Chuck Westerman’s fiddle splits the bluegrass/country difference with aplomb, and young dobro player Andy Ruff brings a distinctive, dazzlingly appropriate pedal steel sound to his playing (and turns in a fine lead vocal on his own “Each Night I Dream Of A Lady”). What’s not to like?