Third Cut (New Mode Grass)

New Mode Grass
Third Cut

Sometimes bands work out the details of a recording session in excruciating detail before ever stepping in front of a microphone. Other times, in a hurry to produce a new recording to sell at personal appearances or on the festival circuit, a band will go into the studio without spending much time in thought or preparation for the recording. When they do that, the result is almost always unsatisfying. I'd dare to guess that Third Cut is the result of a rush project.

Nearly all of the songs on this collection are familiar, frequently heard around jam sessions, and virtually none of them really needed to be recorded again. New Mode Grass doesn't really provide anything new or fresh, either. Ashes of Love and Sing Me Back Home are fine tunes, and crowd pleasers for almost any band, but that alone doesn’t make it them good candidates for recording.

There are, to be sure, some good things on Third Cut. It's a genuine pleasure to see the Dillards represented here with Never See My Home Again. And New Mode Grass takes tunes from outside the bluegrass tradition with energetic and spirited renderings of It Doesn’t Matter Anymore (Paul Anka) and Boudeleaux Bryant’s All I Have To Do Is Dream (the Everly Brothers), but they’re surely not the first bluegrass band to do those particular tunes.

Offsetting those highlights is an odd, up-tempo version of Ashokan Farewell that completely misses the emotional depth usually associated with the song, and this points up the most serious problem with the recording. There’s a sameness of tempo on the recording, fourteen songs very similar in sound and feel. The harmonies clash in a few spots and the mandolin is out of tune on some of the tracks.

New Mode Grass is certainly capable of a more ambitious effort than they show on Third Cut. Maybe they'll be able to pay more attention to detail when they take a fourth cut.

Published in Bluegrass Unlimited, March 1997. Used with permission.