recording of the Frederick, Maryland based
bluegrass band the "Orchard Boys" was a
pleasure to listen to and review. While many
regional bands have struggled to develop
three part harmonies and tri-instrumental
lead playing, the Orchard Boys took the bull
by the horns and picked a basket full of
ripe red apples.
At the core of the band, three brothers
hailing from the apple country of central
Maryland, John, Jeff, and Jim Rosenwald make
nary a mistake in their polished vocal
trios. With Jim on guitar and baritone
vocals, Jeff on doghouse bass and tenor
vocals, and John taking the lead, the
Orchard Boy's create a sound that most folks
would love to have right in the middle of
their living room.
John Rosenwald handles the mandolin and lead
vocal chores with a plain spoken easy to
understand style that is refreshing in a
world of bluegrass vocalists who pride
themselves on straining and slurring.
Danville, Virginia native Fred Smoral does
an excellent job on the Dobro and strikes
that magic balance of not over-playing or
under-playing. Fred also provides the bass
vocals on the four part harmonies.
The banjo playing of Paul Houck reminds us
what a real Scruggs roll is supposed to
sound like and his playing throughout the
disc is a lesson in playing clean and clear.
The CD is called "Bringing It Back" and
brought back to me a good feeling of the
early seventies when country, folk, rock and
bluegrass began to integrate. The variety of
the song selection is impressive with songs
from a variety of writers ranging from Dolly
Parton to Jerry Garcia. There are three
originals by John Rosenwald and two
exceptional instrumentals from banjoist Paul
Houck. For me personally, the highlight of
the disc is John's original gospel number
entitled "Sinner Man" with its ear catching
lyrics and flawless instrumental and vocal
arrangement. Coming in at a close
second (or perhaps neck in neck) would be
Houck's contribution of the instrumentals
"Mar-Lu Ridge" and the eerie "Snallygaster."
"Snallygaster" features the even flow of
instruments trading breaks in an impressive
laid-back style that deserves the attention
of bluegrass pickers everywhere.
A legend at the turn of the century in
Western Maryland, the Snallygaster was a
creature resembling a dragon that terrorized
small towns and scared children. This
banjo-memorial of the wicked beast takes its
stand in a minor key that courts an
impressive melody line ripe and ready for
Another highlight is the Hunter/Garcia
penned "Brown-Eyed Woman"
which has the potential of becoming a
bluegrass standard with its
references to "homemade whiskey" and of
course, "brown-eyed women."
I get handed a lot of CD's from bands
throughout the country and this is one that
still continues to receive airtime in my
disc player. I appreciate hearing a band
that is successful without rehashing
"over-done" tunes from other bluegrass
A staple of the Maryland music scene since
the early eighties, the Orchard Boys bring
to bluegrass a style that anyone can enjoy.
The smooth instrumental work and easy voices
of the Orchard Boys combined with a
repertoire of original songs, undiscovered
gems, and the occasional standard get a blue
ribbon at my county fair every time.
Good pickin' boys... and I don't mean