Charles Humphrey III plays bass with bluegrass music’s Grammy-winning Steep Canyon Rangers. The native Tar Heel is a prolific songwriter as well, and his compositions are often performed by a talented collection of friends on CDs he produces at those rare times when the musicians are not on tour.
“Traveling Show” is Songs from the Road Band’s third album on Humphrey’s Lucks Dumpy Toad Records. It features 14 tracks written by Humphrey and co-writers, including Jonathan Byrd, Shawn Camp and Calico Moon’s Mark Bumgarner. The songs are performed by 11 of Humphrey’s friends, and mixed and mastered at Chapel Hill’s Rubber Room Studio.
“Traveling Show” opens with the title track, a reflection on life on the road that will resonate with any hard-traveling musician. It’s performed by Mandolin Orange wunderkind Andrew Marlin, who co-produced the album; Marlin also sings lead on “Silk and Lace” and “Rake Out the Nails” (a duet with his M.O. partner, Emily Frantz).
Guitarist Sam Wharton sings joyously of “jumping the broom” in the tongue-in-cheek “Hillbilly Wedding Day.” Town Mountain’s Phil Barker imparts a wistful feel to the Grateful Dead-inspired “By the Banks” and pain and sorrow to the fatal tragedy of “Thompson Flood.” “Just Let Go,” sung by Leftover Salmon’s Andy Thorn, is presented as a newgrassy tour de force.
Additional contributions are provided by Town Mountain’s Robert Greer and fiddler Bobby Britt, along with other young and talented pickers and singers. Together, they make “Traveling Show” a showcase of young musicians carrying the bluegrass tradition forward to a bright, creative, compelling future.
Correspondent Jack Bernhardt
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