When Billy Strings used to be two years ragged, his natural father died from a heroin overdose. That makes Terry Barber—an amateur bluegrass musician who married Strings’ mother—the particular person he calls dad. And that makes Me/And/Dad a fortunately unlikely for father and son, of mission to epic an album rooted so deeply in memory and gratitude, addiction and recovery.
These are songs Strings first heard as a boy, the conventional country weepers of George Jones (“Lifestyles to Proceed”), proto-bluegrass of the Monroe Brothers (“Long Streak Residence”), ragged-time gospel of Jimmy Martin (“Runt White Church”), and flatpicked folks of Doc Watson and Gaither Carlton (“Peartree”). They’re tunes he’s been playing since he used to be ragged enough to protect a guitar, and when he and Barber play them now—Strings on a 1944 Martin D-28 and Barber on a 1993 Martin D-93 that Strings tracked down after Barber pawned it—they channel two lifetimes tubby of remorseful about, loss, and disappointment.
On songs delight in Lester Flatt’s “Runt Cabin Residence on the Hill,” they sound as end as brothers, and even though Strings could maybe play circles round his dad (or correct about anybody else), everything on this album is designed to protect Barber within the highlight, taking half within the once-in-a-lifetime, dream-attain-factual wait on of Mike Bub (bass), Michael Cleveland (fiddle), Make a selection McCoury (banjo), Ron McCoury (mandolin), Jerry Douglas (resophonic guitar), and Jason Carter (fiddle). It’s an album as ragged-fashioned as a crew-reduce, and ideal of all, Barber is better than ideal enough for center stage. Who’da thunk it?
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