I vividly remember the first time I heard Charlie Sizemore. It was 1993 and an album called Back Home. Still pining over the tragic death of country singer Keith Whitley, it was hard not to hear a lot of Keith in Sizemore’s voice. Like Whitley, who began his career as a teen in Ralph Stanley’s Clinch Mountain Boys band before moving to J.D. Crowe and then embarking on a country music career, Sizemore also earned his stripes with the legendary Stanley, coincidentally replacing Whitley when he left for Crowe’s band. More than just bluegrass as a starting point, the two shared smooth, curvy voices which stylistically and tonally recalled classic C&W stylists called Haggard and Frizzell. Since laying ears on that 1993 release, I drew a line from Rodgers (as in Jimmie) to Frizzell to Haggard to Whitely to Mr. Sizemore. While classified as a bluegrass artist, Sizemore has always been a little different from his contemporaries in the genre. From the material – a mix or originals and covers – to the music itself, Sizemore over the course of the last dozen years has always brought a nice dollop of country into his music with its foundation in bluegrass. The good news is Good News stays the course. The songs are a satisfying batch that spans tributes (“Alison’s Band” has Sizemore jonesing for a place in Alison Krauss’s band while “Blame It On Vern” salutes the hurtin’ side of the Vern Gosdin catalogue) to old school (an Eddie Noack cover of all things!) to tracks from tried and true types like Tom T. Hall, Hank Cochran, Hugh Prestwood (“Hard Rock Bottom of Your Heart” which Randy Travis scored a hit with) and Paul Craft. Sizemore’s originals aren’t too shabby, either, be it a drinkin’ tune (“The Less That I Drink” co-written with Buddy Cannon) or one about a troublesome woman (“I Won’t Be Far From Here”). It’s been five years since Sizemore’s last album. That’s way too long for a singer of his sizable talents. Good News is exactly that on all counts. Welcome back, Charlie. (Rounder Records, One Rounder Way, Burlington, MA 01803, or www.rounder.com)
(Dan Ferguson is a free-lance music writer and host of The Boudin Barndance, broadcast Thursday nights from 6 – 9 pm on WRIU-FM 90.3. He lives in Peace Dale and can be reached at [email protected].)<...