A Review of the John Lowell & Ben Winship CD
"Occupational Hazards"

"Occupational Hazards"
by John Lowell & Ben Winship

Snake River Records SRR 018
Copyright: Snake River Records, 2005.

This review is written by Dai Woosnam, daigress@hotmail.com, 9/05

These two guys are from the state of Idaho. And that in itself is worthy of note. Not too many CDs by performers from that state find their way across The Pond to me here in the UK.

This is their second album together as “Growling Old Men” their group name for themselves. That name is a bit too subtle for me, since anything less “growling” would be hard to find, and judging by their photos they are far from old.

What they are however, is the Real McCoy when it comes to bluegrass-influenced old-timey music. They generally approach each number with Lowell playing marvellously authoritative guitar at gunslinger speed, and Winship hitting us with the most plaintive of mandolin accompaniments.

You can hear that these guys instrumentally are joined at the hip. Each one makes room for the other like only true kindred spirits can. And judging from the vocals, they are even perhaps joined at the LIP, for so simpatico and mellifluously do their voices harmonise with each other.

They are clearly aiming at a “neighbours sitting jamming on the stoop/ playing on the back porch” type of music, but with none of the rough edges.

The material is mainly bluegrass, but there are a couple of rather fine self-penned songs toward the end (one by each artiste), and most startling of all, a not-unsuccessful version of “Billy Taylor” learned from Karine Polwart at Shetland Folk Festival.

This is an album that has legs. I can imagine it growing on the listener.

Dai Woosnam
Grimsby, England

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