Album Review of
Daylight's Burnin'

Written by Joe Ross
August 6, 2014 - 12:00am EDT
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From Indiana, guitarist/lead vocalist Tony Holt and the Wildwood Valley Boys continue to carry on the bluegrass family tradition of the legendary Boys from Indiana. Tony is the son of Aubrey Holt, who wrote eight of the twelve cuts on this project. Tony wrote the closer, "Old Grandad," and other songs were penned by Sterling Whipple, Brian Leaver, and Tom Holt. Aubrey Holt sings tenor. The rest of the Wildwood Valley Boys are Evan MacGregor (fiddles, viola, baritone vocals), Jake Brown (mandolin), Matt Despain (dobro), Brian Leaver (banjo, lead guitar), and Paul Priest (bass). Apparently, the band has undergone some personnel changes since their last project, "Songs from Wildwood Valley," but they still sound very cohesive with their instrumental and vocal arrangements. In fact, since the Wildwood Valley Boys released their first album for Rebel Records in 1999, they've had many personnel changes, but they haven't lost any momentum. For their second album in 2000, "I'm a Believer," they reverently presented some soul-stirring bluegrass gospel. On "Daylight's Burnin'," I think their new personnel actually step it up a notch in the instrumental department. 

Songs on the 37-minute album include: 1 Daylight's Burnin' (3:07) 2 Silver Ghost (3:24) 3 North of the Carolinas (3:09) 4 I Aint' Leavin' (2:57) 5 Sweet Maggie Belle (3:49) 6 I'll Cry Like a Baby (2:17) 7 What Happened to Ann (2:55) 8 Boilermaker (3:55) 9 Cousin Russell (3:00) 10 When the Warden Turns the Key (2:50) 11 Feeling Blue (2:52) 12 Old Granddad (2:22)

This 12-track project is the fifth album from the band, and it shows that they've achieved an even greater level of experience and maturity. It builds on their formula for success that revolves around fresh traditional-sounding material, well-blended vocals, and unpretentious yet solid instrumental prowess that stays close to the melodies without grandstanding. Anything but trite, these songs appeal to staunch traditionalists who have certain expectations and enjoy powerful images or messages in their bluegrass music. The tempos and rhythms are varied, and each song has a contemporary personality of its own built on strong traditional foundations. "Daylight's Burnin'" is a lively number with some shuffling fiddle work. Recalling precious old memories is the theme of Aubrey's nostalgic ¾-time songs about Maggie Belle and Ann.

"Cousin Russell" is a ballad that recalls younger days when the boys were learning to pick bluegrass and listening to the Opry on daddy's crystal set. "Silver Ghost" is a spooky song of a train without an engineer or crew. The personal tribute to "Old Granddad" is a sweet thoughtful remembrance. Brian Leaver's "Boilermaker" is a rhythmically enticing and expressive instrumental that gives each musician a chance to showcase their picking abilities. Their slower tempo'ed and more evocative songs, like the sad "When the Warden Turns the Key," are their forte. Tony's smooth vocal delivery conjures many images, such as this convict's dark cell and his last lonely mile. "North of Carolina" and "Feeling Blue" get the toes tapping. Overall, I would've enjoyed hearing a few more songs like "I Ain't Leavin'" on this CD to shake things up a bit. To burn a little more than daylight, a couple up-tempo pieces at full throttle would've proven that this formidable band can be as inspired as they are inspiring. 

"Daylight's Burnin'" has expressive vocals, sparkling solos, and well-tailored harmonies. Their traditional approach to the music, coupled with new original material, demonstrates that Tony Holt and the Wildwood Valley Boys know how to entertain bluegrass fans. (Joe Ross)