Pier Pressure
Sugar Hill Records CD-3872
Larry Carlin / December 3, 1997

Songs: Once A Day, Full Gale Force, Bed Of Roses, Nothing Ain't A Lot, Carolina Star, Sleepwalk(ing) At The Drive-In, Baby Blue Eyes, White Pilgrim, Guilty, Rockin' Hillbilly, Don't Lay Down, Working On A Building

Personnel: Mike Auldridge -- harmony vocals, resophonic guitar, pedal steel, lap steel; Jimmy Gaudreau -- harmony vocals, mandolin; T. Michael Coleman -- harmony vocals, 5-string and fretless basses; Moondi Klein -- lead vocals, guitar, vocal; Linda Rondstadt -- harmony vocal on Bed Of Roses; Pat McInerney -- percussion

I have a confession to make. This may come as a surprise to some, but the truth of the matter is that I am not a purebred bluegrass boy. I grew up outside of Philadelphia, where the term "bluegrass" seemed like an oxymoron to this kid who mowed the green stuff every Saturday. At first I was a rocker, and then I stumbled into country music. It wasn't until the college years in a rural setting that the bluegrass bug bit me. And as much as I like that high lonesome sound of Bill and Ralph and the boys, my warped musical sensibilities are strummed when a band mixes all three of the aforementioned styles together. And this is why I like Pier Pressure by the band Chesapeake so much.

Chesapeake began four years back as an experimental offshoot by three former members of the Seldom Scene (Mike Auldridge, T. Michael Coleman, and Moondi Klein) and the mandolin player from the Tony Rice Unit (Jimmy Gaudreau). During the non-festival cold winter months these four veterans of the bluegrass scene got together and began recording original renditions of traditional material. By the time they recorded Pier Pressure, their third album, the steel guitar was wailin', the drums were thumpin', and the members had written half the songs. Add acoustic guitar, mandolin, and the fabulous voice of lead singer Moondi Klein, and it is plain to see that this is a band that is just now finding its groove.

Pier Pressure lets off steam with the very first song, Once A Day, (one of four tunes written by bassist Coleman), a tale about a guy who misses his southern home. Next comes Full Force Gale, a very non-traditional gospel song written by pop legend Van Morrison. The most stunning cut on the CD is the love ballad Bed Of Roses, with harmonies by Linda Rondstadt. This song could and should be at the top of the country charts. Nothing Ain't A Lot, a Coleman song, is a funky 90s take on the Dylan line "when you ain't got nuthin' you got nuthin' to lose", and Carolina Star is a pretty piece about a wife and mother who holds the family together while dad is pursuing the elusive songwriter dream. Sleepwalk(ing) At The Drive-In combines lots of fine pickin' in two songs -- one by mandolist Jimmy Gaudreau and the other the old instrumental from decades back. Baby Blue Eyes is a sweet love song that features some fine fretless bass playing by Coleman, and White Pilgrim is a traditional gospelesque song with some pretty harmonies. Guilty and Rockin' Hillbilly are two more Coleman songs, the former being about a jerky guy who is sentenced to a life of the blues and the latter clearly an autobiographical song about a country boy who plays bluegrass with an R & B feel, and it combines bluegrass with a Bo Diddley beat. Don't Lay Down was written by lead singer Klein, and it is a calypso/samba/grass tune with the anti-country theme that says if the gal really wants to leave, then for heaven's sake, let her go and get on with your life. (Now there is a message most people can take a cue from!) And the final cut is a modern version of the traditional gospel song Working On A Building, a tribute to two bluegrass giants who died in 1996--Bill Monroe and John Duffey.

Traditionalists beware! You will not like this CD, as drums and electric pickups abound. However, for you bluegrass fans who want to stretch the boundaries of the genre a bit and who don't want to succumb to the peer pressure of the all-acoustic-or-nothing set, give in to Pier Pressure by Chesapeake.

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