Columbus, Ohio has a long history as one of the Midwestern strongholds of traditional bluegrass music. The Osborne Brothers, Red Allen and a host of others have played the honky-tonks and bars in Columbus over the years and established a solid base of bluegrass interest there. In addition, as with most college towns, there's a mixing of musical styles and influences from other kinds of music. Out of that confluence of styles in Columbus, comes One Riot One Ranger (that's the name of the band), combining a healthy respect for bluegrass with a bunch of fresh ideas drawn from a wide variety of sources.
Their influences range from Duke Ellington (Caravan) to old-timey (Tennessee Coot) with flavorings from Boone Creek and Country Gazette along with way. There's even some tasteful accordion in One The Right Track Now, adding a slightly Tejano feel.
Head Ranger Mark Wyatt brings a slightly different musical influence, having previously played with the punk folk/rock band Great Plains. That probably explains a lot about the general approach to the music here, but don't take it to mean that One Riot One Ranger doesn't understand or appreciate traditional bluegrass. On the contrary, all the components of solid bluegrass are there, but they're mixed around and reassembled in new and exciting ways.
The performances and arrangements on the recording show a lot of thought and attention to detail in what the band wants in each song. This sometimes results in over-reaching, as in the a capella intro to Old Home Place -- a nice idea but the vocals aren't tight enough to pull it off successfully. Give them credit, though. They choose not to play it safe.
Harmonies aren't always on the mark, at least, not in the traditional bluegrass sense. The picking isn't flashy, but are appropriate and well played. Pete Remenyi's Dobro work is excellent throughout. The original tunes are pleasant but uneven. The best of them, like Not So Long Ago and the lovely western anthem Adios My Amigo, are sure-fire winners. Some of the others are nicely done, but not particularly memorable.
This isn't pure, unadulterated, caveman bluegrass. It doesn't try to be. But One Riot One Ranger has gotten their ideas down on tape and done a credible job with them. If you're in the mood for something a little different, these guys are worth watching for.