Tumbling BonesTumbling Bones
Album: Loving A Fool
Label: Stone Tape
Tracks: 10

Hailing from Portland, Maine, Tumbling Bones are more than just three young men with an upright bass or two in tow! Actually, Kyle Morgan (guitars, piano, organ and bass), Jake Hoffman (banjo, bass) and Pete Winne (guitars, banjo and harmonica) have recently recruited a fiddle player (Aaron Jonah Lewis), since recording this album. But anyways… With buckets of Attitude, and heavily inspired by old-time music and drawing on bluegrass and rock'n'roll and early pop as well as pre-WW2 folk, they deliver an imaginative corpus of songs (including some self-penned items) that enable them to showcase their spirited and upfront (mostly three-part) harmony vocals as well as their abundantly-energy-fuelled instrumental chops. Whether they tackle traditional material like Bound To Ride (and how!), or readily-acknowledged staples from the repertoires of the likes of the Monroes or Stanleys, you'll find that raw passion and genuine affection are both the keynotes and (perhaps unlikely) bedfellows of their approach.

The guys are really versatile too, for that deep-rooted level of commitment and energy also pervades the slacker-tempo selections, with album highlights occurring in both categories. Irresistible amongst the uptempo cuts are a cover of I Don't Believe You've Met My Baby (the old Louvin Brothers hit from '56) and two of guitarist Kyle Morgan's excellent compositions, Red Red Rose and How They're Rolling (the latter featuring some searing harmonica work from Pete). At the other extreme, the CD's title number is a desperate, lonesome heartbreaker par excellence, Pete makes the most of his undoubted gift for torchy crooning on his own composition This Time Last Year, and Shady Green Pastures is an incredibly strong, aromatic slice of a cappella gospel. The trio's original take on the spiritual Bright Morning Stars - also done a cappella - is also striking, and thoughtfully different in its use of interpretive dynamics.

And before I finish this review, I need to mention some gloriously edgy guest fiddle work from Tyler Leinhardt ("auxiliary percussionists" Tim Findley, also on ukulele and saw, and Chris Connors, also on guitars and keyboards, tend to make the odd appearance too). The disc's only miscalculation, to my mind, is the fake-antique tinny, scratchy sound they manufacture for their cover of Bill Monroe's A Voice From On High, which otherwise, musically speaking is faultlessly, and authentically, rendered; Tumbling Bones have more than enough to offer without having to resort to gimmicks like that. For the sheer sense of presence (and understanding commitment) that Tumbling Bones exhibit is tremendous, and if they're anything like this brilliant live - well I'll be at the front of the queue for tickets. (But hey, their first UK tour, tho' it lasts for much of this month, has not a single date anywhere in the northern half of the UK… grr!)

David Kidman