Albums of cover songs are made for a lot of reasons, not all of them good, but on occasion and artist makes a album that pays tribute to music that inspired them and in doing so they bring something of themselves to the project. A spark that ignites the songs to burn fresh. Chuck Mead's last album, his solo debut Journeyman's Wager, expanded his musical palate to bring in some wider influences that all musicians can bring to bear on their music. But as Chuck explains in his song by song liner notes the first music he ever remembers hearing was Hank Williams. That's going to effect a man's musical outlook one way or another. Real country music is at the heart of Mead's soul no matter what music he plays. Back in the early days of BR5-49, playing in Roberts, there set was largely made up of then largely ignored classic country with the occasional "true story" song played alongside. These true stories were the bands increasingly competent original songs which sat easily with the older repertoire. Both Mead and fellow singer Gary Bennett's songs have stood the test of time. With country music of the old school values becoming a thing of the past at radio and on major labels a number of artists, like Marty Stuart, continue to mine the music's rich vein in a rewarding way. There is an accompanying DVD with this album that further explains how this project evolved and how they came to record it in the refurbished Quonset Hut studio using a blend of Mead's band and some of the legendary members of the A-Team crack session unit who played there back in the 50s on some classic recordings.
The seasoned sessioners included Hargus "Pig" Robbins, Bob Moore, Buddy Spicher and Harold Bradley alongside BR5-49 alumni Chris Scruggs, Mark Miller and steel guitarist Carco Clave and drummer Martin Lynds. Producers Michael Janas and Chuck Mead also brought in a slew of guest singers in Elizabeth Cook, Bobby Bare and Jamey Johnson as well as Old Crow Medicine Show for the opening vibrant take on Wabash Cannonball. This sets the tone and you know that over the next 12 tracks you into something special. I'm aware that not everyone will view it that way and they still have an aversion to covers album in general but to hell with that. I like what I'm hearing here and no mistake. At this point it's worth noting the stature of Mead's vocals which are increasingly assured and distinctive. He's having fun and sings the hell out of these songs. having listened now to the album several times there isn't a track I don't like but let's pick a couple of highlights. Sittin' and Thinkin' is full of truthful regret. Apartment No.9 is full of similar heartbreak and sensitivity, While the uptempo takes on Honky Tonk Hardwood Floor and Hey Joe and the closing Pickin' Wild Mountain Berries lift the spirit and set the toes tapping. Chuck Mead and the entire crew can be justifiably proud of this album, that brings a new energy to the genre while tipping it's hat to the stars, musicians and studio of the past.