“Hitchhiking to California” by Alan Bibey & Grasstowne

There’s truly no limit to what a melody can convey in the bluegrass genre, given the style’s multifaceted structure of song and complex storytelling frequently employed by its best players, and we’re reminded as much when listening to Hitchhiking to California by Alan Bibey & Grasstowne. Bibey, a veteran bluegrass artist, leads his band into battle with one mission on his mind, and over the course of eleven rather optimistic instances of balladry and bruising swing tunes alike, he accomplishes it brilliantly. Hitchhiking to California makes no attempt to conceal its rootsy personality – instead, it wears its cultural attributes with pride.

Grasstowne exhibit a synchronicity in the songs “Crime at Quiet Dell,” the instrumental “Messin’ with Sasquatch,” “I Want to Be Loved (But Only by You)” and the title cut in this album that could leave a lot of their competitors green with envy this spring, and rightly so. This material exemplifies chemistry you just can’t fake with a synthesized production style, and while Bibey tends to be the most powerful force in any given performance, he has no trouble turning the spotlight over to the likes of Kati Penn in “I Don’t Know When” or Darin and Brooke Aldridge in the fantastic “Daddy & Me.”

Hitchhiking to California

Listen to Hitchhiking to California on Spotify. Alan Bibey & Grasstowne · Single · 2020 · 1 songs.

Of all the content included in Hitchhiking to California, I actually think my favorite track here is this act’s cover of “Take the Long Way Home.” The Supertramp classic has been restyled by a lot of different players through the years, from rock to hip-hop and back, but this bluegrass-style take is probably the most definitive and pleasing I’ve heard myself. Bibey knows how to select quality material for this crew, and that’s obvious even in the most cursory of listening sessions spent with his latest release beside Grasstowne.

I don’t know that the chemistry factor in this LP can be overstated critically, mostly because it has such a big impact on the way we receive “When He Calls My Name,” the ironic “Lonesomeville” and single “Blue Collar Blues” especially. Had it been Alan Bibey on his own in this piece, I’m not sure that we would feel the weight of the narratives as much as we do with the chorus of players backing him up here. There’s something to be said about top notch musicians getting together for a jam session, and when it yields results like this, there’s rarely a complaint from the press or the fans the same.

If Gonna Rise and Shine was the blueprint for this group’s work together, Hitchhiking to California should be regarded as the stately dream realized for Alan Bibey & Grasstowne. Their efforts in this album are impossible even for the most discriminating of music enthusiasts to overlook or deny, and although it should be said that the past couple of months have brought forth a lot of really good bluegrass music, few artists in the genre’s mainstream are putting out the simple joy contained in the eleven-song tracklist Bibey has designed for us here.

Clay Burton