Grand Ole Ditch – Unwind
Written by Cliff Tyler
Grand Ole Ditch is a bluegrass band that hails from the mountains of western Maryland. Calling Cumberland home, these guys have been hard at work since their formation in late 2012. In just under 4 years the band has elevated themselves into being one of the premiere Americana groups in the mid Atlantic region. After releasing their first album “Big Red Ball” in 2014 the band was off to the races playing great venues, wonderful festivals and even sharing the stage with some true bluegrass royalty. Their latest effort, titled “Unwind”, is due out in early 2016 and picks up right where they left off.
The opening track shares the same name as the album and drifts into your ears with a calming effect. As it fades in you first hear a soft cymbal rhythm, then a soothing bowed note on the bass that leads to an accompaniment of bar sounds or crowd noise. The Dobro sneaks in a melody as the cymbal becomes a full part of the sound. Before you know it the whole band has joined the party and your feet are taping on the floorboard of your car, under your desk at work or where ever else you might be. You’re hooked now. The whole album gets a spin before you continue on with your day.
Immediately one notices a difference from the bands first album. The initial sounds you hear are percussive, and not the likes of which can come from strings. Grand Ole Ditch quietly added a drummer to their lineup well over a year ago. The comparison of traditional bluegrass to new age bluegrass often comes down to this topic. However you may side on the conversation, there is no arguing that it sounds great with this particular band. It’s a respectively light drum kit sound heavy on the snare and kick to help drive the tunes and keep time. Grand Ole Ditch is still very much a bluegrass band and they show no signs of changing that moving forward.
The record continues on so smoothly that you are half way through it before you blink an eye. Track three “Chester’s Breakdown” is a hard driving instrumental tune that is steeped full of tradition. Solos intertwine perfectly and tell the story of the song so well that words aren’t required. Mandolin, Banjo, Dobro, Fiddle and Guitar all sing together and trade the melody back and forth like a band that’s been together for decades. Solid upright bass through out the album is the anchor that lets things fly so beautifully free at times.
“Long to Come Home to Me” is a song that seems to tell the story of a musician on the road longing for his love back home. Could this be a foreshadowing of Ditch’s future? If they keep making music this good we will soon be talking of the good ole’ days when you could catch them relatively easily in the Maryland area. “This Time” is an edgy song that has a bit of a rock n roll attitude and strongly features some wizard like Dobro work on it. “Dragon’s Breath” is another instrumental tune and starts with a fiddle solo that John Hartford would have been jealous of. Banjo, Guitar, and Mandolin all get their chance to shine but “Dragon’s Breath” is no doubt a fiddle tune. “Baby Jane” has a soft swinging tempo to it that’s just beautiful. During this tune there is a brief and incredibly placed tempo change that occurs a few times. It may not shine like a solo, but the feat of accomplishing it as a band deserves mention. It takes some talented musicians that really know each other to jump to double time in less that a beat, hold it for a few measures then drift right back into that sweet swing. The record comes to a close with another upbeat, dance inducing tune called “Foolish Pride”. Opening softly, ending with a bang, and filled with delight, “Unwind” is the perfect album.
Grand Ole’ Ditch is a band that is right on the cusp of their bright future. Pretty soon you will be hearing their name mentioned in the same circles as other bands that we look up to. Make sure and pick up a copy of their latest album “Unwind”. Be prepared to smile and dance along because that’s mandatory when you listen to Ditch. For more information on where the new record will be available and where you can go see the band for yourself please check out