Cliff Waldron and The Virginia Squires Get the Digital Treatment
Traveling Light reminds us that Cliff Waldron deserves to be noted among the best singers to have emerged from the thriving DC/Baltimore bluegrass scene of the 60s and 70s. When Waldron recorded Traveling Light (Rebel 1500) in 1971 he already had three albums with Rebel under his belt – two with Bill Emerson and his solo debut Right On! (Rebel 1496). This recording finds the singer coming into his own as front man and band leader.
The re-released album features an all-star cast including New Shades of Grass members Mike Auldridge on Dobro, Bill Poffinberger on fiddle, and Ed Ferris on bass, all of whom stayed on with Cliff after his partnership with Emerson dissolved. Joining them are Auldridge’s brother Dave on mandolin and tenor vocals and a young Ben Eldridge on banjo. Mike and Ben would soon go on to become founding members of The Seldom Scene shortly after this LP was recorded. Traveling Light is remarkable for the breadth of material. Waldron draws on contemporary songwriters such as Kris Kristofferson (Help Me Make It Through the Night) and Bob Dylan (You Ain’t Going Nowhere) as well as offering fresh takes on selections from bluegrass forefathers such as The Stanley Brothers (Nobody’s Love Is Like Mine) and Grandpa Jones (Fallen Leaves). But in sharp contrast to the forefathers, Waldron is no high-lonesome singer. His voice is mellow, understated, and exquisite.
When The Virginia Squires recorded their first album Mountains and Memories (Rebel 1634) in 1984 they sent out a ripple that would extend far beyond their brief three years together as a recording band. Young and exciting with a progressive edge, The Squires paved the way for future groups like Blue Highway, The Lonesome River Band and IIIrd Tyme Out. The band’s lineup includes Mark Newton on guitar and lead vocals, Sammy Shelor on banjo, Ronnie Simpkins on bass and brother Rickie Simpkins on fiddle and mandolin, all of whom would go on to have successful individual careers in bluegrass after The Virginia Squires. Material on the album features several compositions from hot songwriters of the time of which the Randall Hylton-penned “Cold Sheets of Rain” stands out.
Traveling Light and Mountains and Memories Available for Download from 17th May 2011.