Anyone with a passion for hard-driving traditional bluegrass is likely to be wearing a big grin by the time Audie Blaylock’s taut Indiana twang snaps out the first few words of the title track to his first solo album. Schooled in the real thing through service with Jimmy Martin and Red Allen before landing a spot in Rhonda Vincent’s band, Blaylock is an articulate, passionate advocate for the hardcore stuff, and Trains Are The Only Way To Fly puts musical money where his mouth is in a big-time way.
Yet this is no collection of chestnuts. There are three Martin songs — including the ultimate self-pitying lament “Steal Away Somewhere And Die” — and one Allen tune here, but none are drearily familiar, and they’re performed with an elegant combination of precision and soul. The band — Blaylock’s fellow Hoosiers Ron Stewart (fiddle) and Jim Cornell (bass, baritone vocals), plus mandolinist Jesse Brock and Blaylock’s bandmate Tom Adams on banjo — packs a hell of a punch, leavening their own contributions with plenty of allusions, such as Stewart’s tasteful quote of Buddy Spicher’s fiddle solo on “Livin’ Like A Fool”, and preserving the crisp timing and stout, hair-raising trio harmonies of the original versions.
The remainder of the material, if mostly less familiar (“A Fool Such As I” being the main exception), is no less brilliantly rendered, especially Harley Allen’s “Wildwood Flower Blues”. In a year that’s already seen more than its share of strong releases, Audie Blaylock’s is one of the very best.