Album Review

Don Rigsby & Midnight Call - Hillbilly Heartache

Don Rigsby & Midnight Call - Hillbilly Heartache

Don Rigsby has been an integral part of several high-profile groups (J.D. Crowe & the New South, Lonesome River Band, Longview, Rock County) and has released a handful of solo recordings, but this album signals his arrival as a bandleader. The band, in this case, is Rigsby's regular touring unit: guitarist Shayne Bartley, fiddler Jesse Wells, bassist Robert Maynard, and banjo player Dale Vanderpool (an early Rock County mate). The instrumental "Forked Deer" alone proves these guys have the chops to play solid traditional bluegrass. It's the vocals, though, that really make Hillbilly Heartache. Rigsby's crystal tenor soars, especially on the chorus of Bill Monroe's "Kentucky Waltz". The harmonies carry "Any Bar In Birmingham", a non-judgmental look at a preacher's fall from grace, and "Make God Laugh", which puts God's providence into perspective. The songs come from Dixie & Tom T. Hall, Marty Raybon, Tim Stafford, Jim Lauderdale, and Shawn Camp, among others. From newer tunes such as "He Loves To Hear You Shout" to the standard "I Am The Man, Thomas", gospel music is a pivotal part of this project. The changing rural landscape emerges as another prominent backdrop. A black locomotive delivers the bad news of a "Hillbilly Heartache". Burly tobacco no longer grows in "These Golden Fields". "Big Jim" runs down from the foundry and gives his life to save a family stalled on the train tracks. And an eighteen-wheeler can still make you a "Prisoner Of The Highway"