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Mark Lavengood - We've Come Along (Earthwork Music)

These days the Dobro might well be seen as an integral part of most modern Bluegrass outfits, yet we rarely see it in the hands of a lead player, rather somewhere to the side, its player poised over the instrument in one of two optimum positions; the traditional seated position with the guitar upon the player's lap or alternatively, the now much more familiar standing position with the Dobro ingeniously strapped to the player's torso. Michigan-based Mark Lavengood appears to have no problem bringing the instrument to the fore, the instrument featured liberally throughout WE'VE COME ALONG, his new album. Not only do we become acquainted with Lavengood's playing, his songs and his voice here, we also get a sense of his character, notably during the intro to Vulpes Vulpes, which captures some studio banter, a little like the memorable Morrissey exchange between Ryan Adams and David Rawlings that famously kickstarts Adams' Heartbreaker album.

There's some familiar material here, such as Springsteen's Hungry Heart and Ralph Stanley's Bound to Ride, both of which sit well between the original songs and tunes, the tunes being a couple of interludes that offer contemplative moments between some of the more raw performances. The sprightly Three Day Blow, with its references to the Velvet Underground and Sweet Jane, suggests a rather different musical background to the acoustic bluegrass that makes up WE'VE COME ALONG, an edgier offering. Joining Lavengood are Keith Billik on banjo, Kyle Rhodes on guitar, Jason Dennie on mandolin and Spencer Cain on upright bass, who between them create a laid back contemporary approach to this old mountain music.

Allan Wilkinson
Northern Sky