Special Consensus – Chicago Barn Dance

Album Review | Compass Records | Review by Liam Wilkinson

Whilst 2020 was busy being a pain in the ass, the superlative bluegrass band Special Consensus marked their 45th anniversary with Chicago Barn Dance, a celebratory album that provides some much-needed joy in these dark times.

Produced by the wonderful Alison Brown, the album shows us precisely why this bluegrass band has endured all these years.  Greg Cahill’s uniquely sprightly banjo, Rick Faris’s agile guitar, Nate Burie’s trickling mandolin and Dan Eubanks’s noble bass are all here and firing on all cylinders, but there’s also some welcome contributions from fiddle virtuosos Mike Barnett, Becky Buller, Michael Cleveland and Patrick McAvinue as well as former Consensus guitarist and vocalist Robbie Faulks and the magnificent Rob Ickes on dobro.

As well as a few originals, such as Robbie Faulks’s “East Chicago Blues” which was written for the album, there’s a handful of superb covers here including Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah’s “Lake Shore Drive” and a foggy mountain take on “Sweet Home Chicago”.  But it’s the band’s rendition of John Fogerty’s “Lookin’ Out My Back Door” which will have me returning to this lively and engaging album for years to come.