Keystone Bluegrass Quartet

Keystone Bluegrass Quartet
Keystone Bluegrass Quartet
KBQ 498

The Keystone Bluegrass Quartet is a competent band who, along with producer Peter Ostroushko, have put together this ambitious project, recorded in the studio live on just two tracks. Banjo player Alvin Elias particularly stands out as a strong, melodic player and guitar player Aaron Burnett contributes several nice original songs. But something isn't quite right here.

The original tunes are strongest material and show the band at their most confident. On the other hand, their selection of staid, well-known, bluegrass tunes is unimaginative. None of them really benefit from being recorded again, nor does the band add anything new other than a cool harmony part on the chorus of No Hiding Place.

Several glitches mar an otherwise good effort. There are places where it sounds like the band suffers from a lack of preparation. Mandolin breaks are tentative, harmonies fade in and out as if the singers are unsure of their parts. The recording would have been tighter if it had been cut back to 11 or 12 well-rehearsed songs with a couple of extra takes.

Having said all of that, there's one oddity that stands out from all the rest, and it's so distracting that it eventually becomes outright annoying. KBQ has "Hey Boys" disease. Instead of singing the word "now", they sing "now-how". Instead of singing "down" they sing "dow-hown". Most peculiarly, it only seems to afflict them on the standard bluegrass tunes. I'm not sure of the cause but it really only serves to distract from an otherwise good effort. A recording of all original tunes from them, without the vocal affectation, would be much more welcome in my music collection.

(Keystone Bluegrass Quartet; Box 215, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada)
Published in Bluegrass Unlimited, June 1999. Used with permission.