Breaking Down The Barriers

Darrell Webb

Rural Rhythm, 2012

http://wwwdarrellwebbband.com

REVIEW BY: Curtis Jones

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/16/2014

Darrell Webb spent several years behind the reigning queen of bluegrass, Rhonda Vincent, but has stepped out with his own band to much success. With Breaking Down The Barriers, Webb offers a brand of bluegrass that is not only progressive but also pushes the traditions of recordings of bluegrass music. 

Bluegrass is steeped in tradition. It is literally as old as the hills, or at least settlement in the hills.  As Scotch Irish settlers moved into the Appalachians, bringing with them their musical heritage and instruments, and adapting them to their new home. Because of this long tradition, even bands labeled as “progressive” do not stray far off the beaten path. There aren’t many bluegrassers trying out new inventive recording approaches. Most albums try to present the band as they would sound on stage. Webb’s approach takes a new tack. The difference is noticeable from the opening track, “The Coal Miner’s Son,” which is a spoken word introduction to the album, tells a quick tale of the life of a coal miner through a scratchy recording.  my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

While the band takes on some familiar bluegrass themes, such as the hard life of coal mining (“Goodbye To The Sun”), traveling and hard work (“Prisoner Of The Highway”), and love gone wrong (She’s Out Of Here”), they also go into deeper areas. “The Pistol And The Pen” holds nothing back in the tale of a tortured soul contemplating suicide. “Beckett’s Back 40 Acres” is a whimsical tale of a farmer growing marijuana on his farm, but also hints at the challenges of drugs in rural America, as well as the small town gossip. “False Idols” is a well-written song that is probably the best of the album, which addresses the futility of worshiping celebrity and how just about everyone falls victim to that trap.

Breaking Down The Barriers is a mix of innovative recording, solid musicianship, and song selection that explores not only the traditional but also the highs and lows of life in deep ways.  The sum total of these ingredients is a very fresh sounding bluegrass album that seems to break some barriers of its own.

Rating: A

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