The Cumberland Gap Connection is a little-known bluegrass band, but one who has given me a very pleasant surprise with this album (on Kindred Records). I understand it is their fourth, although it’s the first I’ve come across (thanks to a link posted on The 9513 a few weeks ago). The members hail from Kentucky and Tennessee, and the record was recorded in Cumberland Gap, Tennessee.
Usual lead singer Mike Bentley has an attractive smooth tenor voice, laid back style, and natural understated sense of phrasing, and is also a fine songwriter who was responsible for five of the album’s twelve tracks. He also plays guitar, and his talents provide the band’s focus and the core of the record’s appeal. My favorite of these (and one of the album’s highlights) is the dejected ‘Waiting At the Harbor’, a very well written song with some interesting imagery. One of life’s lost souls, the protagonist of this song has no idea of what to do with his life:
How can you find a home when you can’t move on?
Feels like I’m waiting at the harbor for a train
On a similar theme and almost as good is the opening track ‘Travel All Alone’, which reflects thoughtfully on regret for past choices leading to the loss of a loving home.
The high lonesome sound of ‘Ode To The Mountain Man’ is about a father teaching the protagonist “how to be a good man”, in a way which shows all those country living anthems they might just be missing the point:
It ain’t about where you come from
It’s about where you stand
Just living in the mountains don’t make you a mountain man…
You might live in the city in a mansion doing well
Or you might own a two room shack on top of the hill
The almighty dollar don’t make you good or bad
It’s what’s inside that you let out that makes the mountain man
I assume this is specifically about, and inspired by, Bentley’s late father, who died in 2006 and to whom he dedicates his work on the record.
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