David Parmley is one of the strongest singers working in bluegrass today. He carved out such a well-defined niche in his long service with the Bluegrass Cardinals that it's hard to imagine him with any other band. But while David's solid, warm vocals still remind you of the Cardinals' sound, Continental Divide has moved that sound to a new level which bridges the gap between traditional bluegrass and the best of modern country. Remember - forty years ago it was all just country music. The sharp distinction between bluegrass and country is a relatively recent development in the history of traditional music.
The best example of how Continental Divide bridges that gap is On The Divide Tonight, a lilting country two-step driven by a strong trio, Scott Vestal's imaginative banjo fills and Aubrey Haney's lovely fiddle. It all fits together seamlessly.
Just the same, I've Lost You with Vestal's killer Scruggs-style banjo break and In Despair prove that these guys can just flat play bluegrass. Vestal gets to show off his instrumental prowess with a couple of innovative and off-the-wall banjo breaks in the hard-driving Bad News For The Blues.
Fit For A King is a dark ballad which matches Parmley's voice perfectly. Andersonville March is a minor-key instrumental sure to remind the listener of Lonesome Fiddle Blues. It gives whole band a chance to stretch out and show that they're great pickers, too. Parmley has always been a dynamic and emotional singer and he's at his absolute best with the optimistic I Have Been Across The Mountain and the lovely and mournful That Ain't The Grandpa That I Know, a song about the aging process and the loss of loved ones.
If I have any complaint with On The Divide, it's that the whole recording is pretty but low-key. It might be the band's natural personality, or it might be a lack of variety in tempos and sound. The sound is identifiable, though, and Continental Divide has clearly defined themselves.
The recording is top quality. The rhythm is strong and driving and the vocals are stellar. This is one of those ever-increasing number of bluegrass albums using drums, but they're tasteful and effectively reinforce the rhythm, again bridging that gap between country and bluegrass. On The Divide places Continental Divide as one of the best of the up and coming bluegrass bands today.