Our Little Town

The Special Consensus

Bluegrass Now, January 1999

Another Day with the Blues; Blue in the Blue Ridge; Our Little Town; Irish Medley (The Traveler/Green Gates); Lonesome Cold Wind; Slow Train Through Georgia; Silver on the Bluegrass Tonight; Journey to My Savior’s Side; Billy Boy; Nothin’ But the Wheel; Strawberry Point; New Jerusalem

Everything there is to like about bluegrass music is in this one recording. Special Consensus’ Our Little Town contains blazing breakdowns ("Billy Boy"), soft ballads ("Our Little Town") and outstanding two-, three-, and four-part harmonies, most prominently displayed in the a capella gospel piece, "New Jerusalem." In addition, the listener is treated to some bluegrass roots styling and related music forms with an instrumental Irish medley and an acoustic swing piece, "Silver on the Bluegrass Tonight," which is best described as Bob Wills meets Bill Monroe, where Stuart Duncan’s swing fiddle is added as a perfect compliment to the Special Consensus’ core of players: Greg Cahill (banjo); Colby Maddox (mandolin); Andrea Roberts (bass) and Chris Walz (guitar). Andrea and Chris trade off as lead vocalists, with everyone pitching in on harmony.

Those who have followed Special Consensus in its 23-year existence know that no matter what the lineup of the group (and there have been many personnel changes over the years), band leader Greg Cahill always manages to put forth a sound that is characterized by excellent musicianship and vocals. Another characteristic of this band is to select material that fits comfortably within the expectations of a bluegrass audience, while at the same time never resorting to material that is overplayed. In this effort, as in past recordings, the material selection in one of the strongest aspects of the project. The album contains songs by bluegrass performers/writers Ron Stewart, James Allen Shelton and Danny Roberts, and also includes pieces by noted songwriters Greg Brown (who penned the title cut) and Norman Blake.

The music on this album sounds just as you would expect live bluegrass to sound-full of energy with excellent balance and nice interplay between vocals and instruments. Having seen this configuration of Special Consensus live, I can attest to the fact that what you hear is what you get. Stuart Duncan’s fiddle is added only on selected cuts and always compliments, never overrides, the play of the band. Vocally, the group shines best during choruses where the blend of Andrea Roberts and Chris Walz is superb. Two thumbpicks up for this fine effort.

In the Walnut Valley Festival list of artists: