Plenty of bands throw a banjo or a mandolin in the mix and call themselves bluegrass, but it's increasingly rare to find fresh, original music that fits the Bill Monroe mold of high harmonies, an upright bass-and-guitar-driven rhythm section, and no drums. From the opening bars of the title track on Flatt City's debut, it's evident that they're steeped in tradition — and they've got something to add to it.
"True Wisdom," with its highly singable chorus ("Sometimes I wish I was a little bit stronger/In my heart and in my mind and in my ways"), and "Carolina Colt," the rolling tale of a fierce Civil War soldier, could easily find themselves in the repertoire of any big name bluegrass act looking for new material. And Flatt City doesn't mind borrowing from their influences, either. Their soulful delivery of "In Tall Buildings" assuredly has John Hartford smiling down from the heavens, while multi-instrumentalist Chris Robinson's crisp tenor yodels on "Montana Cowboy" are spot-on.
Song order is well-attuned to throughout, with a selection of fiddle-driven tunes punctuating the album's climax, highlighted by the knee-slappin' "Angeline the Baker." It's on instrumentals like that and "Sally's Bounce" that Flatt City best displays their raw talent, segueing from a flawless mandolin solo to another on the banjo, guitar, or fiddle. It's only fitting that a band so in touch with their roots would close out with "Wicked Path of Sin" — one of the finest by Bill Monroe himself. (www.flattcity.com) —Stratton Lawrence
Hard-rock band Blindsyght's independently-produced new self-titled album falls into the modern metal genre while avoiding most of the clichés. From the bludgeoning opener "Done" through the grunge-hammered "In Our Hands" and the syncopated "Turn Away," the music consists mostly of drummer Wade Szeszko's rapid kick drum and snare fills, guitarists Dustin Schell's and Carl Wannamaker's distorted and complex riffing, bassist Chris Viera's low-tuned drone, and singer John Llewellyn's doomy growl and emotive holler. Recorded and engineered in Extra Terrestrial Imagination studios in North Charleston with producer Dwayne Greenhill at the controls (Kally Knight twiddled a few knobs as well), it's a pretty solid step ahead. (www.myspace.com/chsblindsightband) —T. Ballard Lesemann