IIIrd Tyme Out

IIIrd Tyme Out took its name from the fact that for most of the members of the group, it was their third time to be in a professional band situation.  The combination of their past experiences came together to create a group that has won over 50 industry awards, including a seven-year consecutive stretch as IBMA’s Vocal Group of the Year.  And it all started on Rebel Records.

The group’s debut came with a 1991 release that was called, quite simply, IIIrd Tyme Out.  The five-piece outfit consisted of Russell Moore on guitar and lead vocals, Ray Deaton on bass and vocals, Terry Baucom on banjo and vocals, Alan Bibey on mandolin vocals, and Mike Hartgrove on fiddle.  Most of the selections were recent compositions by some of bluegrass music’s top songsmiths:  Pete Goble, Wes Golding, Norman Wright, and Carl Jackson.  Several traditional country and bluegrass songs rounded out the set, such as “Love Gone Cold,” which was performed by Flatt & Scruggs in the 1950s but was never commercially recorded by them, Molly O’Day’s “When My Time Comes to Go,” and the Ernest Tubb favorite, “Thanks A Lot.”  One bluegrass reviewer correctly foresaw the future when he predicted that “IIIrd Tyme Out is destined to be one of the significant bluegrass bands of the 1990s.”   And beyond!

The band returned in 1992 with the same line-up for a CD called Puttin’ New Roots Down.  The emphasis was on inventive covers of a number of underworked gems, augmented with several recent originals.  At the start of the disc were three bluegrass chestnuts:  Charlie Moore’s “I’m Leaving Detroit,” Hank Williams’ “You Win Again,” and the Ray Price hit of the 1950s, “Crazy Arms.”  Nashville songwriter Larry Cordle contributed the title track as well as a piece he called “Lower on the Hog.”  Alan Bibey supplied the disc’s lone instrumental, a newgrassy piece called “Gordon McGregor.”  Also effective were two gospel quartets:  “When I Cross Over Jordan” and “No End to Heaven.”  Ray Deaton and Terry Baucom – both excellent bass singers – divided their deep vocals between the two songs.

IIIrd Tyme Out’s final release for Rebel, Grandpa’s Mandolin, came in 1993.  The disc noted two personnel changes:  Barry Abernathy replaced Terry Baucom on the banjo and Wayne Benson took over Alan Bibey’s spot on the mandolin.  As with their earlier projects, the group continued to feature a mix of old tunes and new.  Among the more recent compositions were Pete Goble’s “Count Every Tear Drop I Cry,” Carl Jackson’s “Dixie Train,” and the title track by Billy and Terry Smith.  Classic bluegrass was represented with an old Hylo Brown recording called “I’ve Waited as Long as I Can,” the Stanley Brothers’ “Heaven Seemed So Near,” and one that Hank Williams’ recorded called “Someday You’ll Call My Name.”  Instrumentally, the group shone on a 1950s country piece, “Steel Guitar Rag.”

A nice overview of the group’s Rebel years can be found on the 2004 retrospective Erase The Miles.  Released on the label’s attractively priced Vault Masters series, the compilation offers a baker’s dozen of IIIrd Tyme Out classics such as “Moundsville Pen,” “I’ve Waited as Long as I Can,” and the poignant title track as well as masterful performances of the gospel classics “Little Black Train,” “No End to Heaven,” and “When He Reached Down His Hand for Me.”  Although it was IIIrd Tyme Out who revived the Ernest Tubb classic, it’s the group’s many fans who should be saying “Thanks A Lot” to them for all the years of great music.