On the cover of Cold Wind, Open Road's second album (and major-label debut), the bandmembers -- captured in glorious black and white -- wear severe dark suits and matching white Stetson hats. Instruments in hand, they're gathered around a vintage RCA microphone -- ready, perhaps, to launch into Bill Monroe's "Uncle Pen" or the Stanley Brothers' "White Dove." The Fort Collins-based combo -- composed of singer and guitarist Bradford Lee Folk, mandolinist Caleb Roberts, banjoist Jim Runnels, fiddler Dan Mitchell and bassist Ben O'Connor -- plays glorious old-style bluegrass music, with an emphasis on tight, soulful harmonies and tasteful, not flashy, instrumental work.
Like the group's self-titled 2000 debut, Cold Wind was sensitively produced by dobroist (and Boulder resident) Sally Van Meter, who adds a lick or two herself. The album contains a few choice covers, mostly by relatively unknown bluegrass singers like Mac Martin, Vern Williams and the Blankenship Brothers. The standout tracks, however, are by frontman Folk, who possesses a remarkably soulful tenor voice and has a knack for writing songs that sound like long-lost classics. His themes are straight out of Bluegrass 101: love ("Petals in My Pocket"), heartache ("I'll Forgive You") and faith ("Some Things Does, Some Things Don't"). Proudly retro, Open Road has no apparent interest in jamgrass or other such affronts to classic bluegrass. No, tradition suits these boys just fine.