DOYLE LAWSON & QUICKSILVER, “In Session,” Mountain Home. 12 tracks.

Posted December 1, 2014 by klawrence
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This one doesn’t hit the stores until Jan. 20, but if you’re a Doyle Lawson fan, you might want to save your Christmas cash and consider it a late present.

Lawson & his band, Quicksilver, are among the most prolific bands in bluegrass.

“In Session,” a secular album, follows closely on the heels of July’s “Open Carefully, Message Inside,” a gospel album, and August’s “Standing Tall and Tough,” which featured Lawson, J.D. Crowe and Paul Williams.

To date, Lawson has released roughly 40 albums in 35 years.

A couple of songs on “In Session” were written by band members.

Dustin Pyrtle co-wrote “Roll Big River,” a rousing song about a man who’s tired of roaming and wants to go home.

Eli Johnston co-wrote “Captain,” a song about a soldier who’s tired of fighting and ready to die after learning that the woman he loves has found somebody new.

“Americana,” a song that went to No. 8 on the country charts for Moe Bandy in 1988, and “You, You, You,” a 1953 pop hit by The Ames Brothers, are done bluegrass style.

The Monroe Brothers are remembered with new versions of Charlie Monroe‘s “Weep and Cry” and “Evening Prayer Blues,” an instrumental associated with Bill Monroe.

Carl Jackson and Aaron Wilburn‘s “Calling All Her Children Home” finds a man living in the North hearing a southern breeze calling him home.

Another good album by one of bluegrass’ top bands.

Can’t find it in stores? Try DoyleLawson.com in a couple of weeks.

LARRY STEPHENSON BAND, “Pull Your Savior In,” Whysper Dream Music. 12 tracks.

Posted November 3, 2014 by klawrence
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The Larry Stephenson Band is celebrating its 25th anniversary in bluegrass this year.

But Stephenson has been performing professionally for more like 40 years.

He started playing mandolin at 5 and cut his first record at 13.

As soon as he finished high school, Stephenson hit the road with Cliff Waldron and Leon Morris.

He moved on to Bill Harrell & The Virginians and then to the Bluegrass Cardinals before forming his own band in 1989.

Stephenson, long regarded as one of the best tenor singers in bluegrass, is celebrating his band’s 25th anniversary with an all gospel album — “Pull Your Savior In.”

He wrote the title cut, a hard-driving song about reaching out to Jesus.

The album includes several gospel standards — “Amazing Grace,” “Great Speckled Bird,” “How Great Thou Art,” “Let The Lower Lights Be Burning” and “Will You Meet Me Over Yonder.”

Also included are Lester Flatt‘s “Thank God I’m On My Way,” Rick Stanley and Donna Ulisse‘s “Come To Jesus Moment,” Randall Hylton and Cadillac Holmes‘ “If You Want To Live Forever,” the Louvin Brothers‘ “Born Again” and Bill Castle and Levon McCall‘s “Morningtime Always.”

Guests include Jimmy Fortune, Aubrey Haynie, David Parmley and Dale Perry.

Another strong album by one of bluegrass’ best.

Can’t find it in stores? Try http://www.LarryStephensonBand.com.

LONESOME RIVER BAND, “Turn on a Dime,” Mountain Home. 12 tracks.

Posted October 27, 2014 by klawrence
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After 30-plus years on the road and numerous personnel changes, the Lonesome River Band is still at the top of its game.

But, surprisingly, “Turn on a Dime,” the band’s 17th album, is its first studio album in four years.

Brandon Rickman, the band’s lead singer, co-wrote three of the tracks — “Lila Mae,” “If The Moon Never Sees The Light Of Day” and “Hurting With My Broken Heart.”

Covers include Merle Haggard‘s “Shelly’s Winter Love” and the traditional “Cumberland Gap.”

One of the strongest songs on the album is the gospel ballad, “Holding To The Right Hand,” a song about a man who has fallen and almost given up until he finds salvation.

“Don’t Shed No Tears,” a jazz-influenced gospel song, is about a man asking family and friends not to cry when he dies because he’s heaven bound.

“Every Head Bowed” is a humorous look back at being a child in church with a stomach growling for Sunday dinner.

The title track, “Her Love Don’t Turn on a Dime,” is an uptempo song about a woman who doesn’t care how much money her lover has.

Then there’s “Bonnie Brown,” who is very materialistic.

But it wouldn’t be bluegrass without songs about broken hearts and lost loves.

“Gone And Set Me Free” is about a man leaving town because his woman has left him.

“Lila Mae” is about another woman who’s gone.

“Teardrop Express” finds a man crying for the first time since he was a baby when his woman leaves.

“Hurting With My Broken Heart” is another song about a woman gone and a man hurting.

And “A Whole Lot of Nothing” is about what a woman leaves behind when she’s gone.

Good album by a great band.

Can’t find it in stores? Try LonesomeRiverBand.com.

PHIL LEADBETTER, “The Next Move,” Pinecastle. 12 tracks.

Posted October 13, 2014 by klawrence
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Earlier this month, the International Bluegrass Music Association named Phil Leadbetter its 2014 Dobro player of the year — an award he also won in 2005.

Only two other people — Jerry Douglas and Rob Ickes — have won the award in its 25-year history. They join Leadbetter as backing musicians on his new album.

The award caps a remarkable comeback for a man who was diagnosed with Stage III Hodgkin’s lymphoma three years ago.

Doctors warned that even if he survived the cancer, Leadbetter’s motor skills might be damaged by the medication he was taking to fight the cancer.

He never expected to play again.

But Leadbetter — and his skills — survived.

And he’s back with a new album — “The Next Move.”

The title comes from Leadbetter’s wondering what God had in store for him as he made the next move in his life.

The bad news is the cancer has returned and he’s back in a second fight for his life.

Leadbetter isn’t a vocalist, but he’s joined by a variety of friends who are on this album.

Shawn Camp sings a song he co-wrote, “Jesus, My Old Dog and Me,” one of the best songs on the album. He also vocalizes on “Pull The Trigger.”

Ken Mellons‘ version of “I’m A Modern Day Interstate Gypsy” is another great song .

John Cowan sings lead on “I’m A Ramblin’ Rolling Stone.” Marty Raybon and Joe Diffie share the vocal work on “Baptism.”

Steve Gulley and Dale Ann Bradley do “I’ve Never Seen A Love That Wasn’t Blind.” Steve Wariner does “Hole In The Earth.” Con Hunley sings “Georgia On My Mind.”

Matt Leadbetter adds his Dobro to his father’s for “Leadbelly,” a tune Phil Leadbetter wrote. “When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder” is done as a solo instrumental — just Phil Leadbetter and his Dobro.

Instrumental guests include Bela Fleck, Buck White, Sam Bush, Steve Thomas, Cory Walker, Mike Bub, Sierra Hull, Kenny Smith, Tim Crouch, Charlie Cushman, Carl Jackson and Alan Bibey among others.

It would be a great album if Leadbetter weren’t fighting for his life. But his battle against cancer makes it even more moving.

Can’t find it in stores? Try http://www.PinecastleMusic.com.

CROSSPOINT, “We’re Gonna Rise,” Rural Rhythm Christian. 12 tracks.

Posted October 6, 2014 by klawrence
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Crosspoint is a 6-year-old bluegrass gospel band based in Cumberland Gap, Tennessee.

Members are Gary Kidwell on guitar, Steve Partin on mandolin, Alan Powers on banjo, Cleve May on reso-guitar and Daniel Oxendine on bass. All but Partin are vocalists.

“We’re Gonna Rise” is the band’s second album and first on the Rural Rhythm Christian label.

Band members wrote five of the 12 songs.

“Going Home,” a ballad that says it doesn’t matter where you go in life as long as you’re going home someday, is the first single off the album.

“I Dreamed I Drove The Nails,” a ballad, finds the singer wondering what kind of man drove the nails in Jesus’ hands — until he dreams it was him.

“Put Me Down” is about a man who’s been put down by everyone in his life, except Jesus.

“Coal Miner’s Prayer” is about a man who gives his life to God deep in a coal mine.

“Glory Bound” is an uptempo song about being bound for heaven.

It’s good gospel music bluegrass style.

Can’t find it in stores? Try Amazon.com and similar online stores.

DONNA HUGHES, “From The Heart,” Running Dog Records. 21 tracks. DONNA HUGHES, “Fly,” Running Dog Records. 12 tracks.

Posted September 29, 2014 by klawrence
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Donna Hughes, a North Carolina singer-songwriter, has done what few artists have ever done — released two albums in two different genres simultaneously.

“From The Heart” is a bluegrass/country album. “Fly” finds her playing classical piano, backed by a cello, violin and bass.

Several of the songs appear on both albums — done in different styles.

Two songs from the “Heart” album should become instant classics for our times — “Walmart Checkout Line” and “Facebook.”

You can find them both on YouTube.

Neither is a typical bluegrass tune.

But both do what good music should do — comment on our lives and time.

Hughes wrote 19 of the 21 tracks on “Heart” and eight of the 12 on “Fly.’

“The Red Oak Tree” is about a cemetery.

“Gone” is a ballad about the death of a friend.

“Where The Good Daddies Go” is a ballad about a young man missing his father who died in a war when he was born.

Musicians include Scott Vestal, Rob Ickes, Tim Stafford and Greg Luck.

They’re both good albums, but if you’re strictly into bluegrass, “Heart” is the one for you.

If you like all genres, try them both.

Can’t find them in stores? Try DonnaHughes.com.

NU-BLU, “All The Way,” Rural Rhythm. 10 tracks.

Posted September 22, 2014 by klawrence
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They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

It apparently works that way for the North Carolina-based Nu-Blu.

Carolyn and Daniel Routh formed Nu-Blu in 2003.

That fall, she suffered two strokes, lost her ability to speak as well as the use of her right side — and almost lost her life.

But Carolyn Routh battled back to become a fine lead singer and bass player.

In 2009, Nu-Blu signed with Pinecastle Records.

A few months later, before the band’s new album, “Nights,” could be released, Pinecastle closed its doors.

The Rouths decided to self-release the album and its first single, “Spin on the Red Brick Floor.”

It scored well on several charts and Nu-Blu was named 2010 Country Band of the Year by the Carolina Music Awards.

Then, in September 2010, the Pinecastle label was purchased and reopened. And Nu-Blu was signed to a new contract.

And now, the band’s fifth album, “All The Way,” is out on the Rural Rhythm label.

“With this new project, we are going all the way by stepping outside of genre boundaries and letting our fusion of musical tastes and interpretations guide us like never before,” Carolyn Routh says on the band’s website.

But don’t worry.

It’s still a bluegrass album.

But the big surprise is the album’s first single, “Jesus and Jones,” which features 78-year-old Sam Moore, a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for his years with Dave Prater as Sam & Dave.

The song is more country than bluegrass, which is understandable since its about George Jones and Jesus.

“One man made wine, the other one drank it,” Moore and Carolyn Routh sing. “Either one could bring you to your knees.”

Rhonda Vincent joins Carolyn Routh on “That’s What Makes The Bluegrass Blue,” a ghost story just in time for Halloween. It’s based on a real coal mine disaster in 1939.

There’s also a cover of the 1983 Anne Murray classic, “A Little Good News,” for a world still short on good news.

In “All The Way,” Carolyn Routh sings about domestic violence with a tragic end.

“It’s Not That Cold In Montana,” sung by Daniel Routh, finds a man watching his wife pack to visit her mother, but knowing in his heart that she’s leaving for good.

In “Heavy Cross To Bear,” Carolyn sings about a medic in the war in Afghanistan.

And the band gets to showcase its instrumental talents on J.D. Crowe and Doyle Lawson‘s “Black Jack.”

A good album by a good band.

Can’t find it in stores? Try http://www.Nu-Blu.com.


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