By Charlie Englar
For professional musician Gary Bragg, power in numbers must be the way to go, noting all the superb bluegrass and country musicians he commissioned to play on his new album, High Plains Storm.
With the likes of Tyler Grant, Eric Thorin, Chris Elliott and Casey Driessen in the mix, Bragg, a musical composer and former Steeley Dan tribute band keyboardist, took the all-star cast and added his own humorous, silly style to the disc, while also lending his rural Nebraska upbringing as legitimacy that he too, when needed, can go country.
High Plains Storm, produced by Thorin, takes a ride from the Front Range and out into the never-ending Eastern Plains. The fiddle, banjo, lap steel, pedal steel and various guitars all lend commentary in this rural how-to guide.
Bragg has perfected a Neil Young-style, tongue-in-cheek, nasal-type of a vocal delivery, which, to be perfectly honest, works marvelously well when the aforementioned Bragg is discussing such topics as Jesus being born in a barn (see “Born In A Barn”). Or when he is talking about women, which happens a lot, but most notably in “You Are The Cure,” where Bragg realizes, “You had a lie on your lips and his pants were un-zipped / said he’s just friend, but that wasn’t true.”
Moments of reflective sturdiness show up in songs like “Kansas Land” and “Boots On The Fence,” keeping a strong balance within the mixture.
High Plains Storm provides top-notch country and bluegrass sound, highlighted by Bragg’s voice and intermittent piano in a generally wink-wink format, and it works.