Album Review | 'Travelin' Time' 

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There used to be a time when a Bluegrass outfit was predictable…the old favorites about old times, and the band wore, well, outfits — hoodies, beanies or sneakers were not a factor. In these enlightened days of ‘alternative bluegrass,’ Dirty Blanket excels on their release "Travelin' Time," featuring Joel Fedkiw (banjo/vocals), Kevin O'Leary (rhythm guitar/vocals), Ben Haravitch (bass/vocals), Max Flansburg (lead guitar/vocals) and Richie Colf (mandolin/vocals).

"Fast and Troubled" rips the effort open, blending modern bluegrass with a punky sensibility, free of traditional guardrails. Vibrato-edged harmonies ride atop waves from Dirty Blanket's tight-yet-chill sound, seamlessly threading virtuosity persisting through "Scratch The Bear," with some tasty banjo. If one was itching for high-octane/acoustic-thunder, you can scratch it on tracks 1-2 of "Travelin' Time."

"New Disease" rhythmically shifts from light dub to straight country, anchored by Fedkiw's throaty testimonial. Reflection continues into "Senorita," a love song about the peace we chase as we make our way through the winds of the world.

Turmoil persists in "Torn," featuring O'Leary's sonorous vocal work, which leads to Max Flansburg's sole songwriting/lead vocals on "Waiting All My Days," proof of the guitarist’s utter comprehension of the country love song.

The only waltz on "Travelin' Time" is "The Road That Never Ends," which, lyrically, reckons with two deciding to be friends or lovers. Emotionally the tone is now set for the heaviness heard in "Two High," featuring an artful guitar solo toward the end of this meditation on intoxicating love.

Shifting from upright bass to clawhammer banjo, Haravitch adds sweetness on "Maple Grove," a reflection on solitary mornings, regret and wondering if a loss is a shared one. As "Travelin' Time" consoles via the concluding title-track, one can bathe in the driving, yet empathic, alt-grass of Dirty Blanket.

Ryan Yarmel is the music director and host of 'Afternoons with Yarms' at WRUR. He can be reached at [email protected].
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