Blackberry Jam

Andy May
Swift River Records

From the WV program, September, 2000

Andy May is no high lonesome singer. He has a graceful baritone and an easygoing manner. But make no mistake. The man appreciates bluegrass, and he proves it with two songs on the new CD "Blackberry Jam."

"They Put the Blue in Bluegrass" is a song that bluegrass lovers will want to own. It commemorates the birth of bluegrass and the roles that Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs and Lester Flatt played. "When people heard that sound / It just turned their heads around / I wish I'd been there that day," sings May. Fans who share his nostalgia will enjoy this song; those who didn't know about the roots of bluegrass will benefit from this history lesson.

Less academic but more fiery is "Bound for Tennessee." May again references Monroe as well as heroes Uncle Dave Macon and Fiddlin' Arthur Smith. This kind of uptempo song would be a workout for any banjo player, and frequent May collaborator Jim Heffernan handles the task beautifully. Fiddler Tim Crouch steals some attention, too.

In addition to the bluegrass celebrations, Andy May and co-writer Lauren May mix healthy doses of the introspective and the inspirational. "My Dad" delves into the personal, using recurring phrases and cold facts to build the picture of a relationship. Heffernan again shines on the track with a guitar solo that captures the mood of the song. "Big Wings" uses the imagery of a blue heron and an airplane to capture a moment of personal conviction. Closing the album is "Love's the Greatest Gift of All," constructed around a syncopated chorus that holds both tension and reassurance.

Rounding out the release are some lighthearted songs, including the honkytonk shouter "I Think I'll Move" and the wry diner ballad "Stan."

In the Walnut Valley Festival list of artists: