Donald Teplesky Review of Onwards and Upwards ...

January 6, 2013

This review of my Pineastle Album just appeared on the Country Standard Time website under the collective title of 'Five great Bluegrass Albums I forgot to review during 2012' by Donal Teplesky of Canada. It speaks for itself .... My regard for Ireland's Niall Toner is well-established. While he isn't prolific, since encountering him a bit more than a decade ago, I have come to appreciate his approach to bluegrass and songwriting a bit more with each of his albums. His fourth is "Onwards and Upwards," his first for Pinecastle. When a song kicks off with an execution ("Nothing concentrates the mind like a hanging, they say") of an innocent man- similar in theme to Long Black Veil and maybe even The Night The Lights Went Out in Georgia- I know I'm in the right place. But Judge and Jury is just the first of the treasures to be unearthed in this collection produced by Keith Sewell. William Smith Monroe is the album's centerpiece, as finely executed tribute to the father of bluegrass as has been written. That it didn't receive the airplay and attention I felt it deserved when released more than a year ago is one of the (many) things I will never understand. I thought it was perfect. Still do. The Pride of Shelby is less wordy in tribute to Earl Scruggs. "Onwards and Upwards" is wide-reaching in its approach to bluegrass; no two songs follow the same path. Lock and Key is sweetly sentimental as Toner sings with Wendy Buckner over Sewell's instrumental bed, while Burren Backstep has those ancient tones that are so often referenced. Way of a Wanderer contains a heavy dose of country within its 'grass and Bling is a bit frivolous but still enjoyable with a loping rhythm. Remember Me is an intense portrait of the failings of age, with Rob Ickes' reso sounds sounding eerily like a musical saw. Like the previously mention Kallick album, great effort was put into "Onwards and Upwards" booklet, especially into Toner's song notes.

 

 

 

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