Album Review of
New Chapter

Written by Joe Ross
April 3, 2022 - 3:41pm EDT
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Playing their brand of genuine, traditional bluegrass with heart and drive, this Missouri Ozarks band was formed back in 1967 by mandolinist Frank Ray and his uncle. Ray still fronts the band that has won numerous SPBGMA awards, placed first at the Gibson National Bluegrass Band Showcase, and released several fine albums on the Hay Holler, Blue Circle, and Nickeltown labels. Now signed with Virginia-based Mountain Fever Records, Cedar Hill is poised to begin a New Chapter with a particularly tuneful set of eleven varied winners.  

“How Deep is the Lonesome” is a snappy opener before a charming “That Stanley Sound” pays tribute to the seminal brothers that inspired Cedar Hill’s sound and ethos.  A spiritually-infused “Are You Born Again?” highlights the band’s stellar vocals. Throughout, guitarist Dalton Harper’s lead vocals are sturdy, and the addition of Tim Crouch’s twin fiddle on “Tend to My Flowers” imparts an evocative mood. Frank Ray’s self-penned instrumental, “Leavin' Egypt” has a Monroesque groove, while other standout tracks, “The Art of Love” and “Number One at the Bottom” are upbeat declarations of affability complemented with the instrumental and vocal prowess of the other band members, Bill Cross (banjo, Dobro), Pete Brown (fiddle) and Patti LaFleur (bass).

“I Can't Settle Down” has a spirited old-timey groove that enters into the captivating realm of Appalachian-noir. While the theme’s been sung about before, “This Old Guitar” has smooth evocative poignancy in the nostalgic message and free-flowing guitar riffs. With bluesy warmth, “Smiling” closes the set with a much different kind of mood than what it began with. Cedar Hill’s durability is a testament to their professionalism, dedication, perseverance and showmanship. Like one found in a good book, New Chapter is full of action and keeps you on the edge of your seat to see what’s gonna happen next. (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)