Album Review of
A Mountain Apart

Written by Joe Ross
April 10, 2014 - 12:00am EDT
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The Biscuit Burners demonstrate a fluency in the contemporary string language of their North Carolina home. Their "Fiery Mountain Music" album, IBMA showcase about ten years ago, and many appearances got many folks talking about this young hardworking quartet that emphasizes old-time sounds with contemporary sensuality. Their modern responsiveness allows us to welcome them with open arms. Our reception of their independent music must acknowledge the band's strong originality.

They manage to burn their biscuits with exquisite resophonic guitar, rhythm guitar, lead guitar, clawhammer banjo and acoustic bass. Mary Lucey and Shannon Whitworth sing in an intriguing style not too dissimilar to Gillian Welch's. On this album, I wish that a slightly greater emphasis would've been given to banjo. In "Off to Sea," resonator guitarist Billy Cardine demonstrates his technical mastery of the 5-string. A little known fact is that Bill Cardine taught himself the banjo because he thought this song needed some banjo. He had never really played banjo much prior to this recording session so that is no doubt why it is a little sparse. Also, Shannon Whitworth has proven that she has a wonderful interpretive knack with clawhammer banjo, but it doesn't really talk much here. When it does, such as on her own "Donna Rose" and Mary Lucey's "Stone Grey," it's fairly laid back in the mix for rhythmic fill. On the other hand, Cardine's and Bletz's fingers on the dobro and guitar emit blue flames and fiery sparks throughout the project. Songs on the 49-minute project include: Ridgeway Backroads, Laurel Grove, A Mountain Apart, Hera Lynn, Off to the Sea, Pinchtown Hop, Don't Leave Me Feelin' Blue, Donna Rose, Stone Grey, The Hatching Season, Harriet's Flog, Sweet Whiskey

The band members wrote all the songs but one (Bob Shuey's "Pinchtown Hop.") Their stories have a traditional and mountainous flair about home, heartache, rambling, drinking and characters encountered on their journeys. "Sweet Whiskey" gives new definition to darling, drink and dobro. The title cut by Lucey is a tale of two women neighbors whose men joined opposing sides in the Civil War. The instrumental numbers like Cardine's "The Hatching Season" and "Harriet's Flog" are interpretive jaunts through some powerful and adventurous dobro and guitar improvisations.

Formed in early 2003, The Biscuit Burners are also burning rubber on the highways to get their name and music out there. Their strong work ethic is paying off as more and more people are becoming familiar fans of their spirited, infectious music. And the band is doing it all with no mandolin, fiddle, and minimal banjo (although, since the release of this album, the band has picked up mandolin player John Stickley.) On a 49-minute album, I was apprehensive at first about whether they'd be able to keep my attention throughout. The fact is their biscuits get cooked right to tasty perfection. These innovative traditionalists have created a new type of mountain music that is very intriguing. (Joe Ross)