The Jakob’s Ferry Stragglers: White Lightning Road

By Cliff Tyler

                If you’re a fan of bluegrass music then you need to familiarize yourself with a band called The Jakob’s Ferry Stragglers.  Hailing from the “coal country” areas of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio this four piece string band is tearing up and down the east coast playing festivals and nice venues almost nightly.  Their shows are high energy, captivating, and full of sweet picking and perfect harmonies.  The group’s latest release titled “White Lightning Road” is a product of their hard work on tour.  It shows off a band that is so tight they could have probably tracked these tunes in their sleep.  One thing is for sure, it won’t put you to sleep!

The record starts off in traditional fashion with an instrumental number called “Red Prairie Dawn”.  Right away it is evident that these musicians are masters of their respective instruments.  Fiddle, Guitar, Banjo, and Upright Bass team up and combine together to form a driving bluegrass force.  The title track “White Lightning Road” is sung by the same young lady that plays fiddle.  She is one of the finest fiddlers out there but quickly you realize that she can sing just as well! The next song “Smokestacks” is a great example of how quickly a listener can learn lyrics and it’s also proof that a song doesn’t have to be intricate to be incredible.   By the second or third time the chorus comes around there is no way you aren’t singing along.

The middle of this album is just as strong as the beginning and end.  This is really just a perfect record.  There is nothing to skip. Just press play and boogie!  All four members contribute to vocals so there is a variety of voicings being heard.  Sometimes that can get confusing to a listener but these folks have done it just right.  “Billy in the Lowground” kicks off with a lovely banjo melody that leads right into a smoking fiddle break.  The upright bass slaps the backbeat to keep time as a slick, flat picked guitar solo floats through your ears and into your brain to be analyzed.  What’s this coming up next? An expert bass solo rounds out the intensity of this instrumental.  This guy is a wizard on the doghouse and often wows audiences with his bass solos in the live setting as well.  That’s something you just don’t see every day!

Containing a total of 11 songs, the album comes to a close with yet another pairing of great compositions.  “Tumbleweed” has some more fine bass work.  Perfectly placed double tap slaps meld into the 4\4 time signature and another short but impressive bass solo kick this song right into gear.  “The Breadline” is the final track on “White Lightning Road”.  It spins a narrative that seems very parallel with the current state in our country.  United we stand. Apart we will fall.  We will all be in the breadline together if we don’t pay attention to what is going on around us.

Flat out, this one of the best bluegrass albums to be released this year.  It is so easy to listen to that you know it had to be fun to record.  This is a perfect example of organically made songs that aren’t forced out.  In a natural arrangement sometimes the music plays the band. The Jakob’s Ferry Stragglers are a group with a bright future.  They are already working their way up the bills of the finest bluegrass festivals in the country.  Get on their bus now. Don’t wait another minute!  “White Lightning Road” is a must have for your collection to say the least.  Please check out the bands website, for information on how to get a copy for yourself.  There you will also see a list of their extensive tour dates so make sure and go support them in person too!