Austin's bluegrass bands usually find themselves as sonically displaced as they are geographically, caught between Appalachian old time and Colorado/California new-grass in a usually uncomfortable schizophrenic jumble. The Lost Pines avoid that trap behind Asheville, N.C., native Christian Ward, whose quintet's local debut primarily tunes toward the Blue Ridge, supported by rolling banjo and Thomas McGregor's traditional fiddle. The influence of Texas open-plains country also seeps in on ballads such as "Sarsaparilla Sam" and "West Texas." Ward's clipped, throaty drawl is rough-hewn and achingly raw, even on the string stompers such as "Die Some Day" and "Wagon Wheels," but Talia Sekons' harmonies give the group its glow. Her lead on "Won't You Be My Baby" and "Drifter" balance Ward's edge, and closer "Valley Forge" unfolds as a tender piano-and-guitar folk tune that may be Middle of the Morning's best offering. Austin bluegrass done right.
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