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Jubal Foster

JUBAL FOSTER (Western Beat) • Jubal Foster

One of the buzzinest bands in Nashville, and for good reason. Named for a moonshiner in an Andy Griffith episode, Jubal Foster is a North Carolina quintet that met in Nashville. Out of jam sessions intended to write some songs, a group emerged that began with the trio of Jeff Smith on drums, Mark Baumgartner on guitar and vocals, and Milan Miller on guitar, mandolin, and vocals. When they picked up Buddy Melton on fiddle, he made it three good singers. They were fortunate to complete the lineup with Mark Winchester on upright bass, a great player who has toured with Emmylou Harris's Nash Ramblers and the Brian Setzer Orchestra.

Their eponymous debut has all the freshness of a record made without any Music Row businessmen in the wings. (A few may gather now that's it out, however, especially if this bluegrass craze persists.) This is Western Beat territory, the dominion of alt-country impresario Billy Block, where rootsy art rules. (For another impressive example, see our review of Walt Wilkins.)

Heard a lot of people sing the Beatles classic "I've Just Seen a Face," but none any better than this. Reinvented as a mid-tempo bluegrass country song, it sounds even more natural than in it original form, and I'm not used to saying that about Beatles covers. It's precisely that line between country and bluegrass that this band is walking with a quiet confident integrity. It's music like it oughta be.

Milan Miller's "Saving Up For a Cadillac" is a smokin little train beat number. It's an excellent foil for his chicken pickin and Buddy Melton's lithe fiddle work. It sets up the killer ballad on the record beautifully, "Reason to Cry." Ballads in mainstream country tend to get so overwritten, overcut, and overmarketed--it's rare to hear a vocal that rings with any sincerity once all the money changers have had at it. Jubal Foster sing and play like they mean it. Check it out on the Listen page, and buy it here.  • FG

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