With their second CD, the Kokomo, Ind., group Branded Bluegrass has put together a solid release of 12 cuts, which include four originals by guitarist and lead singer Larry Norfleet. Their sound is based in traditional bluegrass, but they demonstrate the ability to venture off into the progressive realm as well, as evidenced in part by “Mountain Song” (popularized by the Gibson Brothers) and Boudleaux Bryant’s “All I Have To Do Is Dream.” The band is clean and solid, if nt flashy instrumentally, with Larry Norfleet on guitar, Tristen Norfleet on mandolin, Jesse Norfleet on resonator guitar, Derek Dillman with some standout work on banjo, Mike Martin on bass, and guest Gil Benson on fiddle. Clay Hess, who earns all recording, producing, mixing and mastering credit, also contributes one track each on guitar and mandolin, as does Ray Cossin on fiddle.
Vocally, the group is tight and polished, with Larry and Tristen handling most of the leads. Among the highlights are a rousing “If I Could Make A Living Out Of Loving You,” Larry Norfleet’s haunting “Judgement Day,” Steve Earl’s “I Still Carry You Around,” and some very nice four part harmony on Vince Gill’s “All Prayed Up.” Also well done are Steve Jackson’s fatherly tribute “Most Welcome,” a strong version of “Lonesome Reuben ,” and “Dream Of Me,” a wistful take on coping with relationships while on the road.
This is a pleasant release, and the group shows potential beyond what is included here. While there is much good material here, a more uniformly strong choice of songs would improve their sound even further. Nicely done. (www.brandedbluegrass.com) AW - Bluegrass Unlimited - October 2016 Edition