As bluegrass players, there’s an endless list of sorrows — and decades — the Grascals could have chosen to mine for their second album. Here, it’s women, The Man, work and God that play main characters in hard-time stories. Listening to the heartaches makes you realize how many hours the members have put into their own melodic labors.
There’s no question the Grascals, who are all Nashville standbys, play solid, even superb, bluegrass. On their second album, they layer country sensibilities atop a snug bluegrass frame. Dierks Bentley, George Jones and the Jordanaires contribute vocals; if the Osbornes mark the Grascals’ roots, these guests also suggest a more modern country reference point.
Highlights are the upbeat tunes and the old standards such as the Flatt and Monroe classic “Will You Be Lovin’ Another Man” and the opening track “Home”, written by Candace Randolph. The ballads — although lyrically loyal to the tradition of booze, death and Mama — don’t have the same lasting power of the Osborne tunes “Hard Times” and “Roll Muddy River”. Merle Haggard’s “You Don’t Have Very Far To Go” proves too coarse for their faultless vocals, but the original “Cut Your Wheels” shows that instrumental chemistry and inventiveness are more than half of the Grascals’ game.