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“Take Me Back” (LP) by Carolina Blue

Emerging from the rain ready to break out a jam with a passion rarely matched outside of old Appalachia, Carolina Blue aren’t letting a little bit of cloudy weather stop them from delivering one of the sweetest covers of the season in their new music video for “Too Wet to Plow,” and much like its parent album, this is a single that was designed with the serious bluegrass buff in mind. Although it’s not their own, “Too Wet to Plow” feels very much like an encapsulation of the personality Carolina Blue have when they’re charging into a potent bluegrass groove, and in songs like Take Me Back’s “March Around Jericho,” “Black Knob Breakdown,” “Ballad of Mary Ann” and “Country Lovin’ Son of a Gun,” they put that personality to work for them like they never have before. 

INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/carolinablueband/?hl=en

Beyond the music video for its start single, the Take Me Back LP doesn’t have any of the typical filler that one might be expecting to encounter in a new LP – indie or mainstream – made in 2020. Running just under forty minutes in total length (which has traditionally been the minimum amount of time a record has to run to qualify as a proper studio album), the twelve song tracklist doesn’t invite any segues or transitional ‘intermissions’ into the mix for even a second. From the moment we press the play button on “Grown Cold,” we’re in the grasp of the band for “Take Me to the Mountains,” “Blue Grass” and “Number 73987” just the same. 

The chemistry Carolina Blue have as a group is really something to be impressed with, and it’s an essential provocateur of the catharsis in this content from beginning to end. There’s nothing forced about the kinship the players exhibit in “Raining in Roanoke” or “March Around Jericho;” it takes something especially beautiful and unspoken to make these compositions sound as earthy and unfiltered as they do in this setting, and this band has it down to a science. You don’t have to be the world’s biggest bluegrass fan to get into this album, but for those in the running, it’s absolutely something that I would go as far as to describe as a must-listen in the genre right now. 

APPLE MUSIC: https://music.apple.com/us/album/take-me-back/1516982315

If you’re in the mood for some smart bluegrass that doesn’t flirt with the frilliness of the country music genre and its mundanely commercial trappings, Carolina Blue’s Take Me Back might be the record that you have been waiting on for the better part of 2020. An LP that exudes the laid-back melodic drawl of southern songwriters now in the past but doesn’t shortchange us on any of the modernity that listeners ought to expect – and, frankly, demand – out of their most prized players in pop today, Take Me Back is unpretentious pastoral musicianship that doesn’t want us to overthink any of its foundations. That’s not anything that I would scoff at as a fan in 2020, let alone as a professional music critic. 

Mindy McCall

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