STEVE GULLEY, “Family, Friends & Fellowship,” Rural Rhythm Christian. 14 tracks

Posted September 15, 2014 by klawrence
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Steve Gulley has been around the block a time or two.

He served a long apprenticeship at Kentucky’s historic Renfro Valley Barn Dance, gained national exposure with Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver and was a founding member of both Mountain Heart and Grasstowne.

Now he works solo or with Dale Ann Bradley.

Gulley’s first gospel album, “Family, Friends & Fellowship,” features not only his fine vocals, but an all-star lineup of friends.

The list includes Lawson, Bradley, Joe Mullins, Rickey Wasson, Kenny & Amanda Smith, Les Butler, Don Gulley (his father), Vic Graves, Linda Gulley (his mother), Debbie Gulley (his wife), Adam Steffey, Tim Stafford, Ron Stewart, Phil Ledbetter, Alan Bibey and a lot more.

Gulley wrote or co-wrote three songs on the album — “Scars In His Hands,” “The Man I Ought To Be” and “What Would You Have Me Do?,” a song about dealing with depression.

Bradley joins Gulley on Jimmy Martin and Paul Williams’ “Stormy Waters” and his father and Lawson join in on Hank Williams’ “House of Gold.”

The best known song on the album is “Jesus Loves Me,” which includes an introduction by Gulley’s 2-year-old grandson, Mark.

The album isn’t purely bluegrass gospel. There’s a lot of country gospel too.

But it’s a strong album by one of bluegrasses best vocalists.

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THE EARLS OF LEICESTER, “The Earls of Leicester,” Rounder. 14 tracks

Posted September 8, 2014 by klawrence
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At first glance, you might think this is a British bluegrass band.

But you’d be wrong.

It’s all-star American Flatt & Scruggs tribute band.

Leicester is pronounced “Lester.”

Jerry Douglas, who assembled the band and produced the album, says, “This record is something I’ve been waiting my whole life to do.”

The lineup includes Douglas on Dobro, Shawn Camp on lead vocals and guitar, Charlie Cushman on banjo and guitar, Tim O’Brien on vocals and mandolin, Barry Bales on bass and Johnny Warren (son of Flatt & Scruggs’ fiddler Paul Warren) on fiddle.

The 14 songs — “Big Black Train,” “Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down,” “I’ll Go Stepping Too,” “Dim Lights, Thick Smoke,” “Some Old Day” and “Who Will Sing For Me” among them — are taken from the 1954-65 period.

While the songs are old and the band is playing vintage instruments, the music sounds brand new, with almost a rock energy.

In publicity for the album, Douglas says, “I believe this band has the potential to have its own evolution, beyond just doing Flatt and Scurggs tunes, but this record is very, very exciting for me.”

It will be very, very exciting for most bluegrass fans as well.

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Keith Lawrence, 691-7301,

MIKE SCOTT & FRIENDS, “The Old Country Church,” Rural Rhythm Christian. 13 tracks.

Posted September 2, 2014 by klawrence
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Tennessee-native Mike Scott and his banjo have been on the bluegrass circuit since 1972 — when he was 10 years old.

He started with The Rocky Mountain Boys, moved to The Tennessee Four and then The Cumberland Mountain Boys.

In 1980, Scott landed a job with the legendary Carl Story & The Rambling Mountaineers and then went on to work with Jim & Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys.

In 1986, he formed his own band, Mike Scott & The All-American Band. From 1998 to 2004, he also worked with Danny Davis & The Nashville Brass.

For the past decade or more, Scott has worked as both a solo artist and as a member of Ronnie Reno & The Reno Tradition.

The Old Country Church” is his fourth album on the Rural Rhythm label and his second for Rural Rhythm Christian, following 2011’s “Take Me Lord And Use Me.”

Last year, Scott released an album of Civil War era songs, “Home Sweet Home.”

“The Old Country Church” is subtitled “Appalachian Gospel Instrumentals.”

But most of the songs should be familiar to anyone in America today.

The list includes “Will The Circle Be Unbroken,” “I Saw The Light,” “Swing Low Sweet Chariot,” “When The Saints Go Marching In,” “I’ll Fly Away,” “Precious Memories,” “What A Friend We Have In Jesus” and similar songs.

The “friends” include Bryan Sutton, Tim Stafford, Aubrey Haynie, Adam Steffey, Rob Ickes and Ben Isaacs.If you like instrumental bluegrass albums, this is a good one.

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CROWE, LAWSON & WILLIAMS, “Standing Tall And Tough,” Mountain Home. 12 tracks.

Posted August 11, 2014 by klawrence
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There’s something comforting in the title of the new album by bluegrass legends J.D. Crowe, Doyle Lawson and Paul Williams that’s comforting.

Williams is 79, Crowe is about to turn 77 and Lawson is 70.

In most musical genres, they’d have been retired decades ago.

But in bluegrass, they’re, well, still standing tall and tough.

The three graduates of the Jimmy Martin school of music — all were members of his Sunny Mountain Boys at one time or another — released “Old Friends Get Together,” a collection of gospel tunes, in 2010.

And now, they’re back with an album of secular songs — with a couple of gospel numbers thrown in.

The harmonies are still chilling.

In an era when most acoustic albums seem to be bluegrassish, this one is pure no-mistake-about-it bluegrass.

Crowe was with Martin’s band from 1956 to 1960; Williams from 1958 to 1963; and Lawson from 1963 to 1966.

And the Martin influence runs deep in this album with three songs co-written by Martin and Williams — “My Walking Shoes,” “Little Angel in Heaven” and “Pretending I Don’t Care.”

Williams also wrote or co-wrote “Blue Memories” and the title track.

He also performs his classic version of “Hills of Roane County,” an 1884 murder ballad.

There are a couple of Louvin Brothers gospel songs — “Do You Live What You Preach” and “Insured Beyond The Grave.”

And a couple of old country songs — “Once A Day,” a No. 1 hit for Connie Smith in 1964 and “Fraulein,” a No. 1 song for Bobby Helms in 1957.

Great album by three bluegrass legends.

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MIKE AULDRIDGE, JERRY DOUGLAS & ROB ICKES, “Three Bells,” Rounder. 11 tracks.

Posted July 28, 2014 by klawrence
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It’s unusual to have an album of music featuring only one instrument — especially if the instrument is a resophonic guitar.

But when the instrument is played by three masters like Mike Audridge, Jerry Douglas and Rob Ickes, it’s a little less strange.

“Mike and I originally thought Jerry was a little off his rocker to not use a backing band,” Ickes said in a news release about “Three Bells.” “But there was something special in how the three of us were interacting musically.”

Resophonic guitars, often referred to as Dobros, grew out of the Hawaiian music craze of the 1920s. Josh Graves introduced the instrument to bluegrass in the 1950s as a member of Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs’ Foggy Mountain Boys.

Auldridge, a founding member of the Seldom Scene, was a legendary resophonic guitar player, who had toured with people like Lyle Lovett and Emmylou Harris.

But he was dying from a long battle with prostate cancer when Douglas and Ickes suggested they record some music together — a follow up to their 1994 Grammy-winning, “The Great Dobro Sessions.”

It wasn’t necessarily going to be an album, they said. They just wanted to record memories while Auldridge was still able.

The sesions were recorded in May and September of 2012.

And Auldridge died on Dec. 28.

Luckily for bluegrass fans, those final recordings with Auldridge did become an album.

Rounder is scheduled to release it on Sept. 16.

Each of the men performs a solo.

Auldridge does a medley of “Till There Was You/Moon River.” Douglas performs his own, “The Perils of Private Mulvaney.” And Ickes plays his own, “The Message.”

Other songs include “Silver Threads Among The Gold,” Don Reno‘s “I’m Using My Bible For A Roadmap,” Douglas and Stuart Duncan‘s “North,” Auldridge’s “For Buddy,” Ickes’ “Dobro Heaven” and the title cut, a 1959 country hit for The Browns, but originally a French pop song called “Les Trois Cloches.”

A fine album by some of the best resphonic guitar players ever on the planet.

Available at on Sept. 16.

DOYLE LAWSON & QUICKSILVER, “Open Carefully, Message Inside,” Crossroads Music. 11 tracks.

Posted July 21, 2014 by klawrence
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If you count compilation albums, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver have recorded a string of more than 40 albums in the group’s 35 years.

“Open Carefully, Message Inside” is the 20th gospel album, meaning roughly half of the band’s music is bluegrass gospel.

And, as you might expect from the seven-time International Bluegrass Music Association vocal group of the year, the new album measures up to the high standards Lawson has set for himself and his band.

All six members of the band sing and they all get a chance to join in on “Get On Board,” an a capella number that’s one of the highlights of the album.

A capella fans get a two more offerings on the album — “He’s In Control” and “I Sailed Back.”

Lawson and Quicksilver are known for their quartet singing and “Lead Me To That Fountain” is a great example.

“Coming Soon” is a ballad about the return of Jesus.

“He Made The Tree” says that God made the tree on which Jesus was crucified and the man who drove the nails into His hands and feet.

“O Far Country” finds a man seeing heaven in his dreams.

“Will You Go” is a hard-driving bluegrass song about following Jesus.

Another good album by a great bluegrass band.

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FLATT LONESOME, “Too,” Mountain Home. 12 tracks.

Posted July 14, 2014 by klawrence
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Flatt Lonesome is a young band, both in the age of the musicians and age of the band, which was formed in early 2011.

But it’s roots go back several years earlier.

The Rev. Dolton Robertson and his wife, Lisa, created a family bluegrass gospel band called Sandy Creek Revival with their children Kelsi, Buddy and Charli.

As they got older, the Robertson children decided to make bluegrass a full-time occupation and formed Flatt Lonesome with friends Dominic Illingworth, Michael Stockton and Paul Harrigill.

Harrigill and Kelsi Robertson married in 2012.

The band’s debut self-titled album was released in January 2013.

“Too” is only the second album, but it shows a band on the move with both traditional and progressive bluegrass sounds, some country and some gospel.

The Robertson siblings share lead vocal duties and create a strong harmony sound.

The first track, “So Far,” is one of those songs that bluegrass is known for — sad lyrics about a woman coping with a break-up backed by uptempo happy music.

“Dangerous Dan” tells the story of a one-armed moonshiner who runs from the law and the lord until the lord catches him.

“Never Let Me Go” is a swinggrass tune about a happy relationship.

“He Still Hears” and “I’m Ready Now” harken back to Flatt Lonesome’s gospel roots.

Harrigill wrote “Make It Through The Day” and “I’m Ready Now.” Kelsi Harrigill wrote “Never Let Me Go.” And two wrote “I Thought You Were Someone I Knew” with Jerry Salley.

Good album by a good young band.

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