For the last six years, if you wanted to hear Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver do secular bluegrass, you had to attend a live concert, since gospel material has been all they’ve recorded. With Hard Game of Love, we can experience the secular side of this great bluegrass band.
From the opening banjo lick on “Blue Train,” Quicksilver barrels into songs of love, hate, lust, loss, and in the bluegrass tradition, premature death, with gusto. Besides the impeccable mandolin playing of Doyle Lawson, Quicksilver features perfect three-part vocal harmonies, Searing fiddle by Hunter Berry, supersonically fast banjo from Dale Perry, solid guitar from Jamie Dailey, and rhythmically impeccable bass from Barry Scott. Guest artists Barry Abernathy on banjo and vocals, and Jimmy Van Cleve and Owen Saunders on fiddles, spice up the already richly talented roster.
Quicksilver’s bluegrass style is best described as new-traditional. They aren’t as hardcore Monroe-style as Del McCoury’s band; instead they combine the vocal precision of the late-’60s Country Gentleman sound with the rhythmic drive of Flatt and Scruggs. Quicksilver’s musical meticulousness imbues all their material with a unique freshly washed aura. Their version of “The Hand Made Cross” by John Kael typifies their style. It swings, but the perfectly synchronized twin vocals set a level of almost superhuman exactitude that few, if any, other bluegrass groups can match.
Engineer Wes Easter, aided by in the mastering room by David Glasser, captures the Quicksilver sound with exactitude worthy of their music. Each part of Quicksilver’s carefully arranged musical tapestry is there for you to examine at your leisure. Along with this clarity is enough harmonic warmth to keep the music from sounding like an anechoic science project. Anyone who considers bluegrass “his or her music” will find Hard Game of Love easy to adore.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Aug. ’02 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.