Jamgrass titans Cornmeal have gone through quite a bit of transition in the last few years. Banjoist Wavy Dave Burlingame and Bassist Chris Gangi bid an amicable farewell to longtime band mates Allie Kral, J.P Nowak and Kris Nowak. It was a sad parting for loyal followers of the band who built an impressive tour following with their explosive energy and authentic chemistry. Most remarkable is that Gangi and Burlingame have reassembled the band with truly worthy inheritors and have birthed a new era of Cornmeal music. Guitarist Scott Tipping, fiddler Phil Roach, and drummer Drew Littel have their own musical bond with Wavy Dave and Chris Gangi. Their performances still posses that spectacular psychedelic lining and blazing tempo that separated the band from other safer Newgrass contemporaries. The current lineup of Cornmeal has evolved into greater lyrical depth. This return to the roots is developing the music toward a level of sophistication vaster than ever before.
Most exciting is the release of their first studio album in nearly ten years. Slow Street has been in production for a little while now, as the band was figuring out the finest personnel fit to continue Cornmeal. It’s a fitting follow up to 2006’s Feet First, which displayed the band’s strengthening songwriting and desire to cut studio tracks that well represented their live sound. After countless gigs and pouring their hearts into that level of musicianship it was time overdue for a worthy follow up. Hardcore fans will likely celebrate the diverse group of tracks on Slow Street, some of which have been in live rotation for years now. Fun staples like “Oh Leah Lea” finally got cut to an album. Equally interesting and engaging is that Cornmeal has developed it’s own sense of Americana. Tracks like “Old Virginia” and “Lay Me Down” would fit in well at either the Grand Ole’ Opry or any summer jam band festival. Recognition from both communities keeps the music well blended.
Ultimately Cornmeal is known for their bar-burning numbers and there’s plenty of that on Slow Street. The opening track “Goodnight, My Darling” allures the listening to that familiar hoedown drum shuffle with fresh vocal harmonies that have never sounded better. “Long Hard Road” is a treat for slam-grass junkies with plenty of fast licks from Burlingame and Roach in particular. Fans of the deeper electric jams will surely get off on “Rise Above” which at over eleven minutes is the instrumental highlight of the album. Lead electric guitar, banjo midi-effects, and ripping fiddle interludes tightly cultivate that genuine live Cornmeal sound. Guest musicians like Anders Beck of Greensky Bluegrass augment for an even larger sound. It took a lot of dedication for this album to get released in the wake all of that transition. For fans of Cornmeal, it was well worth the wait. And the wait is over.