On an album by Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, the quality of the performances is never in doubt. No matter who makes up his backing band (this time out, it’s guitarist Darren Beachley, bassist Carl White, banjoist Joey Cox, fiddlers Brandon Godman and David Johnson, and multi-instrumentalist Josh Swift), there’s a constant level of virtuosity that Lawson inspires that few other traditional bluegrass groups can match. Lonely Street, Lawson’s 34th album with Quicksilver, lives up to expectations in that regard. The instrumental “Down Around Bear Cove” and the creative arrangements given to songs like a cover of Marty Robbins’s “Call Me Up and I’ll Come Callin’ on You” and the title track represent the phenomenal picking that has been Lawson’s trademark. Less impressive, however, is the album’s uneven song selection. While there’s no faulting the Robbins cut or an inspired cover of “Big Wind,” a Porter Wagoner hit from 1969, some of the newer songs simply aren’t of that same caliber. “My Real World of Make Believe” is a rare miss from the pen of Buddy Cannon, “Johnny and Sally” is a clichéd narrative lacking in detail, and “The Human Race” is a bit of social commentary that manages to be vague in subject matter and didactic in tone. But it’s the album’s bookends that are the real standouts: the reverent tribute to Bill Monroe, “Monroe’s Mandolin,” and the subtle gospel song “When the Last of Our Days Shall Come.” Those highlights make for some truly first-rate bluegrass, but Lonely Street proves that, 45 years into his career, Lawson is more capable than ever of giving and leading performances that even elevate lackluster material.
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