One of the hottest trends in acoustic music these past few years has been for a bunch of Berklee-trained kids to throw their chops behind a budding young songwriter and call it bluegrass. The old guard pitches a fit, but the youngsters win accolades and inspire other, even-younger youngsters to do the same thing. The old farts call it bogus; the young farts call it progress. The curious thing for Catskill's C. B. Smith (guitar, mandolin) is that he squarely has a foot in both camps. The calendar points out that he is not a recent Berklee graduate, yet he is unafraid—like Albany's Jim Gaudet—to place his bright, original songs in a bluegrass context.
Smith might have become just another songwriter, but his bluegrass roots ran too deep for him to jettison them, to our good fortune. The title track on his sophomore disc, Bluebird, makes great use of Smith's reedy but authoritative voice, and the band's harmonies, too. And "In My Heart of Hearts" proves once again that Smith's forte is the lilting folk ballad. Throughout, Megan Gugliotta's fiddle adds a throaty warmth to the proceedings, while Bill Strohm's bass serves as anchor. They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks, but solid songs and a smart band are neither new nor old. They're timeless, and C. B. Smith is ready to hang with the Berklee kids any time they want. Cbsmithmusic.com.