Springfield Exit – That Was Then


Springfield Exit has ties to a highly respected band from the past, the Johnson Mountain Boys.
They played excellent bluegrass that stayed close to the model
established by Bill Monroe, Don Reno and Red Smiley and a host of
others. JMB members now with Springfield Exit include David McLaughlin
playing mandolin, Tom Adams on banjo and Marshall Wilborn
(bass). Wilborn (husband of Lynn Morris) has been named IBMA bass
player of the year and has played with Michael Cleveland and Longview.
He wrote the title number, a swinging beat with a walking bass line
that’s sung by the group’s lead singer, Linda Lay. “Some Old Day” has
been recorded by a long list of artists including Flatt & Scruggs
and J.D. Crowe.

Adams is an excellent banjo player who once had to quit touring because of a medical problem, focal dystonia. This caused erratic movement of his index finger. If you compare his playing in 1992 to today
you can hear that he has the licks we enjoyed when the JMB hit the
stage. Watching the video you can see he’s using his index finger to

Linda Lay has a good voice and spent many nights in the Carter Fold learning about this music and played with Appalachian Trail before forming Springfield Exit with husband David (guitar, vocals). For a look back at Wilborn and McLaughlin, here’s a performance from 1988 that included Dudley Connell and Eddie Stubbs. Experience and talent make for a great band.

Other traditional numbers include Ola Belle Reed’s “I’ve Endured,” “Elkhorn Ridge”
which features some good clawhammer, “George Cunningham,” a really good
song about Cunningham, who falls into trouble and kills a man, and is
then hanged for his deed—or was he? Eight-five years later his coffin is
dug up and—you need to hear the song for the rest. “Bad Reputation”
(not the Joan Jett song) is another great number as is Buzz Busby’s
“Lonesome Wind” (1958).

They also visit other genres and turn out some good music: “Peaceful
Easy Feeling” (Eagles), “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” (Bob Dylan), “Till the
Rivers All Run Dry” (Don Williams), and “Don’t We All Have The Right,”
one of Roger Miller’s great songs, with Frank Solivan II singing
harmony. There is no overarching consensus on what makes music bluegrass
music, but it seems that while content can be important, the way you
play it, the sound you produce, is the key. Springfield Exit takes these
diverse songs and makes them bluegrass.

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