Album Review of
Never Slow Down

Label: Smithsonian Folkways

Genres: Bluegrass

Styles: Progressive Bluegrass, Contemporary Bluegrass, Bluegrass

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Written by Joe Ross
March 31, 2022 - 1:59pm EDT
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Every now and then, a bluegrass band appears on the scene that really spins heads by channeling the drive, character and lonesomeness of yesteryear’s traditional predecessors.  From Gatlinburg, Tenn., The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys were formed in 2014 by C.J. Lewandowski (mandolin), Josh Rinkel (guitar), Jereme Brown (banjo) and Jasper Lorentzen (bass). Originally from Missouri, Lewandowski had previously worked with David Davis and Karl Shifflett. After a 2018 IBMA Award for Emerging Artist of the Year, appearances on the Grand Ole Opry, and three albums under their belts, The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys welcomed fiddler Laura Orshaw in 2020 as a full-time member of the band and family.  

Their fourth album (in six years), “Never Slow Down” is a testament to their bluegrass sound that’s full of steam and spark, and they sharply dress the part of professional ‘grassers too.  With Ralph Stanley being their biggest influence, it’s no surprise that The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys cover “Lonesome,” a more obscure song that Stanley wrote (with Wendell Smith), recorded in 1967, and released on his “Brand New Country Songs” album.

Similarly, “Little Glass of Wine” (written by Carter Stanley) dates back to 1948 when the Stanley Brothers first recorded the classic murder ballad about young lovers Willie and Molly, and the wine they drink together before the jealous boy would let another man beat his time. In 3/4-time, Laura Orshaw also sings an evocative rendition of Hazel Dickens’ “Ramblin’ Woman” with its poignant, assertive message that “a ramblin’ woman’s no good for a home-lovin’ man.” Oh, that rejection hurts even us listeners. Orshaw does a splendid job calling for justice and triumph over domestic abuse in Jim Lauderdale’s murder ballad, “Old Time Angels” that mentions victims we’re so familiar with … Little Maggie, The Knoxville Girl, Pretty Polly, Little Sadie and Darling Corey who rise up as mountain spirits to seek vengeance for being wronged.         

Guitarist Josh Rinkel worked with Tommy Brown and the County Line Grass for over a decade. The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys’ banjo-player Jereme Brown is Tommy’s son. It’s no wonder The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys cover “Blues Are Close At Hand,” a song that Tommy Brown recorded with his band years ago. This album’s enchanting set also features unique material such as George Jones’ “Where Grass Won’t Grow,” a plea to “Take My Ashes to the River,” and a chance to showcase their vocal quartet on Chris Brashear’s “Mason’s Lament.” Besides engaging covers, The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys tap the ethos of bluegrass music’s emotional sentiments with their own originals like “Missing Her Has Never Slowed me Down” and “When Are You Gonna Tell Me?” All in all, on Never Slow Down, a tight, stellar ensemble provides a definitive traditional bluegrass voice for our time. (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)