Album Review of
The Trail of Aching Hearts

Written by Joe Ross
July 6, 2015 - 12:00am EDT
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With about 15 albums over a span of 40 years in existence, Special Consensus has a pretty darn good feel for what their sound and recipe for success are. They know what works and doesn't. Special Consensus' first ingredient is driving banjo - centric material that allows them to demonstrate their flexibility, creativity and eclecticism with three lead vocalists and solid instrumental prowess. From Chicago, 5-string picker Greg Cahill formed the band back in 1975. Highly respected by his bluegrass peers, Cahill has served as IBMA's President and Board Chairman. This album also included Ron Spears (mandolin) and Justin Carbone (guitar). This album also features a couple songs from the repertoire of his previous group called The 2nd Edition. 

Special Consensus' recent successful albums have songs from mandolinist Ron Spears ("I'd Like To Wander back To The Old Home" and "Lift Your Voice in Prayer"), as well as a Celtic - flavored piece ("Josie's Reel"), original instrumental ("Burns Breakdown"), something from the traditional bluegrass canon (Roy Acuff's "Branded Wherever" that was recorded by Flatt & Scruggs), and compositions from contemporary tunesmiths ("Ten Mile Tennessee" and "Rich Man's Coal" and "The Road To You"). 

Special Consensus also looks for repertoire from other genres that can be ‘grassed up. Take "Down The Trail of Aching Hearts," for example, from Hank Snow's classic country volume. A song that was sung by Marty Robbins, "The Shoe Goes On the Other Foot Tonight," serves as their new regular bass player David Thomas' recording debut as a lead vocalist. A band member since 2006, Thomas hails from Alabama. Or another unique highlight is what has become a signature tune for Special Consensus - - Irving Berlin's classic jazz standard, "Blue Skies." Last but certainly not least, the band's award - winning formula incorporates some key guests to embellish their sound in places. These hired hands include stellar Arkansas fiddler Tim Crouch, talented Dobro - players Rob Ickes and Phil Leadbetter (one cut apiece), and skilled bassists Tres Nugent and Tim Dishman. It's Dishman who get the nod to take a grooving bass break in "Blue Skies." Nugent had been a regular band member but moved back to his Louisiana home to spend more time with family. 

The band has a well - established track record of getting songs into the bluegrass and gospel charts, and their albums are among the genre's top recordings. In a nutshell, it is their aptitude and diversity that make them very appealing to a broad population base. Cahill's Irish ancestry and their regular tours to the U.K and Ireland have also won them a legion of fans across the pond. Besides band leader Greg Cahill on banjo, the group now includes Dustin Benson (guitar), Dan Eubanks (bass) and Rick Ferris (mandolin). (Joe Ross)