Buddy Merriam and Back Roads' new album "The Farm" (LilyPad) shows that bluegrass traditionalism doesn't need to sound staid or stuffy. Merriam's "Waltz in the Pines" sounds timeless and lovely, with the Sound Beach mandolinist and host of WUSB's "Blue Grass Time," showing his mastery of the instrument and the reason why the band has played the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville.
However, it's singer-guitarist Matt Riley's contributions here that push the band forward. His raucous protest song "Live Free or Die" shows how timely bluegrass can be, even without a Mumford & Sons kick drum added. When Riley sings, "The rich get richer, that's the way it seems, and the fabled middle class is really just a dream," it's as potent as any punk anthem and as powerful as a U2 stadium rocker.
THE GRADE B