ALBUM REVIEW: Special Consensus - 35 (Compass Records)

Special Consensus marks the band's thirty-fifth year in bluegrass music with the stellar new recording "35." And Special C (as the band is affectionately known) have produced twelve remarkable tracks that should enhance the band's already sterling musical reputation.
Founded in 1975, Special Consensus is a bluegrass music institution with a long list of talented members and former members. "35" prominently features band founder Greg Cahill (banjo and vocals), and the album begins with six new songs and ends with six classic favorites. "Dusk 'Til Dawn" starts the album off with a bang, and the harmonization is pitch-perfect.

The project really comes into its own with the sincere "Used To These Old Blues" the instrumental "Danny's Dance" and the acappella/gospel-flavored "Land Up In The Air." However, the best country song on the album (and the best chance for a mainstream country chart hit) is the terrific "That's Tennessee." The song has an earnest authenticity that works. The six new songs end with the infectious "Working On The Railroad" that offers top-notch instrumentation.

"Fourteen Carat Mind" (first heard on 1991's "Hey, Y'all" album) is a crowd-pleaser of the first order with vocals by Dallas Wayne. "I Cried Myself Awake" from 1983's "Blue Northerns" album is another winner. "I'm A Little Bit Lonely" deserves special mention because of its memorable melody.

The heartfelt "Have I Loved You Today" from the 1986 album "Freight Train Boogie" shows the band's softer side, but the most fun song on the entire album has to be "Silver Dew On The Bluegrass Tonight" from the "Our Little Town" album (1998). Chris Walz's vocals sparkle, and Greg Cahill shines on banjo.

Fittingly, the album ends with the amazing instrumentation of "Country Boy." You see, it's especially appropriate that Special Consensus' new album '35' highlights the fact that country boys with heart and determination can make legendary bluegrass music while having thirty-five years of fun along the way. Here's to another 35 years of Special C.