Local bluegrass duo Red Cedar Review play Home Team Live Wire Wednesday

by Lorne Chambers | Editor

couple years ago, local musician Brad Edwardson made the decision to begin taking his music, specifically his guitar playing, more seriously. Edwardson, who at the time was playing upright bass for the popular local rock band The Royal Tinfoil, began working on fingerstyle and bluegrass guitar playing.

“A lot of the songs I had written previously didn’t really fit into that context, so I started trying to steer my writing in that direction,” says Edwardson, who was soon playing solo all over Charleston. He also began collaborating with local mandolin player Aaron Firetag. The two had a great chemistry and Red Cedar Review was born; blending folk, country-blues, and bluegrass to create a sound that is both traditional and their own.

Although Red Cedar has been playing around Charleston now for a couple years, they just recently put out their first full-length collection of songs. Entitled The Highway, the band’s debut contains 11 tracks, including eight original songs by Edwardson.

In addition to Edwardson and Firetag’s expert picking and high-lonesome singing, local songstress Lindsay Holler lends her voice, harmonizing with Edwardson on a few tracks on The Highway.

“She is such a great singer, great songwriter, and she’s always got some really cool project going on, like the ‘Women And’ series at the Charleston Music Hall. She plays a big role in making the local music scene as good as it is,” says Edwardson.

Holler isn’t the only local guest musician featured on The Highway. In addition to Edwardson, who plays all the guitar parts and sings lead vocals, and Firetag on mandolin, Jonathan Gray (Jump, Little Children and Whiskey Diablo) plays upright bass, Steven Sandifer (Danger Muffin) plays all the percussion parts (including snare drum, congas, spoons, shaker, and washboard, and sang some harmonies), Derek Deakins plays the fiddle, and Marshall Hudson plays harmonica on one track.

“I’m really thankful for the amazing musical community here in Charleston,” says Edwardson. “There’s so many great players in town, and I feel lucky to have such a great band on this album.”

Despite being titled The Highway, in making the album, Edwardson and Firetag didn’t use a road map to get to their destination. “Recording a full-length album was always in the back of my mind, but it took time for us to really settle into our own sound, and to gather enough album-worthy material,” says Edwardson.

The bulk of The Highway was actually recorded in one day during one big live session at Fairweather Studios on Sol Legare. “Omar Colon was really easy to work with. He has a great space, a great ear, and a really positive attitude,” says Edwardson.

After recording Edwardson and Firetag took the project over to Spinning Whale Studios, where their friend Endre Tomashek mixed it. “Once again, I found myself feeling lucky to be surrounded by these talented and skilled individuals who were really able to push this project beyond my expectations,” says Edwardson.

“Two  of the songs (“Big Sciota” and “Whiskey Before Breakfast”) are old traditional bluegrass instrumentals,” says Edwardson. “One is the old song “Shady Grove”, of which I used the traditional chorus, but wrote my own verses. The rest are all my own original songs.”

According to Edwardson, the song “Hellhound” was cowritten with a friend back in his hometown of Milwaukee 10 years ago. “That one really stands out to me. I’ve written so many songs over the years, and even if I thought they were good at the time, a lot of them eventually just faded into memory,” says Edwardson. “But for some reason, after all of these years, this one song is still kicking around in the repertoire.  I love that.”

Red Cedar Review  plays Wednesday, Jan. 23 at Home Team BBQ, located at  1205 Ashley River Road. For more information, call (843) 225-7427 or visit www.hometeambbq.com.

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