Robert Hale with the 8th Wonder Band – Blue Haze

EP Review | Pinecastle Records | Review by Liam Wilkinson

The Beatles have provided many a bluegrass outfit with the potential for countless good covers, probably because a large percentage of their two hundred and twenty songs lean in a country direction. Robert Hale’s rendition of “Help!” is one of the finest, not just because the song is another one of those astonishingly versatile Lennon-McCartney wonders, but also because Hale and the 8th Wonder Band are deft interpreters.  Blue Haze presents seven versions of well-known songs, beginning with the classic Fab Four track, each with a zesty twist of bluegrass.

The Rolling Stones and Bobby Womack are represented via a chugging version of “It’s All Over Now”, there’s a harmony-smothered reading of “House of the Rising Sun”, which also benefits from the nimble banjo of the 8th Wonder Band’s Scott Vestal, and probably the sweetest rendition of Jerry Jeff Walker’s “Mr Bojangles” you’re ever likely to hear.  And whilst the musicianship is top-notch and the content consistently appealing, the EP’s not-so-secret ingredient is Robert Hale’s voice, which has always been one of the main reasons to love Wildfire, the bluegrass band that Hale has fronted for the past twenty years.