Album Review of
Hitchhiking to California

Label: Billy Blue

Genres: Bluegrass

Styles: Traditional Bluegrass, Bluegrass Gospel, Bluegrass

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Written by Joe Ross
March 6, 2021 - 4:39pm EST
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Originally from North Carolina, mandolinist Alan Bibey has played with a lot of great bluegrass bands over the years, Sure Fire, The New Quicksilver, IIIrd Tyme Out and BlueRidge. In 2006, Grasstowne formed, and they’ve released highly-acclaimed albums on the Pinecastle and Rural Rhythm labels. Many great players have passed through the band, and the group re-branded as Alan Bibey and Grasstowne in 2014. Now associated with Billy Blue Records, the two-time IBMA Mandolin Player of the Year has produced a superlative album with his current bandmates, Justin Jenkins (banjo), Zak McLamb (bass), Tony Watt (guitar) and Kati Penn (fiddle). Guests Ron Stewart (guitar, fiddle) and Patrick McGonigle (harmony vocals on five tracks) also appear.

The band opens with a quick paced driving romp through the title cut, one of three songs that Bibey had a hand in composing, along with “When He Calls My Name” and “Daddy & Me” (featuring Darin and Brook Aldridge). The band’s repertoire is a treasure trove for bluegrass fans with adventurous contemporary tastes. Each song has its own personality, with tight, inventive and expertly played arrangements. Kati Penn’s emotionally-charged lead vocalizing on “I Don’t Know When” creates an evocative setting for this impressionistic song.  A solid rendition of “I Want To Be Loved (But Only By You)” is a nod to the traditional roots of the genre. Done in waltz time, “Lonesomeville” conveys profound sensitivity. Banjo-player Justin Jenkins’ instrumental “Messin’ with Sasquatch” is a great showcase for the musicians’ fluid chops, dexterity and improvisation. “Crime at Quiet Dell,” composed by Chris Stuart, relates a true story dating back to 1931 of murder in the town of Quiet Dell, West Virginia. Alan Bibey & Grasstowne is one of the most happening contemporary bluegrass bands on the circuit. You can count on them for a thrilling ride of solid songs, powerful singing, and straightforward picking.  (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)