Billy Strings: Me/And/Dad
Billy Strings’ birth father died when William Lee Apostol was still a baby, and the boy’s mother remarried to a man named Terry Barber. The new father figure turned young Billy on to bluegrass music, and before long the kid was impressing the folks in Lansing, Mich., with his dexterity and ingenuity on the guitar. He’s now 30, one of the world’s leading bluegrass-style pickers and has arguably taken the genre to places where it never would have stood a chance before. Strings hasn’t forgotten how it all started for him though, and Me/And/ Dad is his homage to the musical relationship he and Barber forged back when the guitar was bigger than the kid. The 14 tracks gathered here feature the apple and the tree blending guitar lines and harmonies on cover tunes largely drawn from the country and bluegrass well, including compositions from Doc Watson, Bill Monroe and George Jones, as well as some traditional numbers. Ronnie and Rob McCoury support them on mandolin and banjo, respectively, with Michael Cleveland on the fiddle and Mike Bub on the bass. A few guests, including Jerry Douglas on the Dobro, also get their licks in. The arrangements are largely unfettered bluegrass—Strings saves the fancy progressive stuff for his many sit-ins with others, but that’s OK. It’s the casualness of the affair that gives it its charm. “Wandering Boy,” an old Carter Family standard, strolls along laconically, as do most of these songs—only the opener, the trad “Long Journey Home,” showcases those lightning guitar runs that leave Strings’ fans slack-jawed night after night. Anyway, this isn’t about that. It’s about the joy of making music with a close kinsman without whom Billy Strings might still be William Lee Apostol.