Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

RED JUNE, “Ancient Dreams,” Organic Records. 11 tracks.

April 21, 2014

North Carolina-based Red June is named for a variety of apple discovered in North Carolina in 1848, but believed to be considerably older than that.

The band’s music is like that.

It sometimes sounds older than it.

The band members first got together at an Asheville, N.C., picking party in 2005.

Three years later, Will Straughan, Natalya Weinstein and John Cloyd Miller formed Red June and began honing their sound — a blend of bluegrass, old-time, country and American roots music.

The sound on “Ancient Dreams,” though, leans a little closer to folk or maybe pop-grass.

But it’s a beautiful sound.

The three members of Red June have crafted a blend of three-part harmony that you’ll hear few other places today.

They also wrote all 11 tracks, including two instrumentals, “Gabriel’s Storm” and “31″.

Mostly, the songs are ballads — more poetry than traditional lyrics.

And occasionally, you’re left wondering just what is happening.

But “I Am Free” is great a capella gospel and there’s nothing to figure out.

For those who like a pedigree with their bluegrass, Miller is the grandson of Jim Shumate, who played fiddle with both Bill Monroe and Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs.The only bluegrass instrument missing on the album is a banjo.

And some people consider the banjo an essential bluegrass instrument.

But whether you consider the album bluegrass or acoustic string music, it’s a good album.

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BILL EMERSON & SWEET DIXIE, “Dancin’ Annie,” Rural Rhythm. 12 tracks.

March 24, 2014

Bill Emerson, who turned 76 in January, is one of the most influential banjo players this side of Earl Scruggs.

His career dates back 59 years to a stint with Uncle Bob & the Blue Ridge Partners in 1955.

Two years later, he joined with the late Charlie Waller and others to create The Country Gentlemen, one of the top acts in bluegrass.

In 1959, he began moving around. First, the Stoneman Family. Then, Bill Harrell, Red Allen, Jimmy Martin and Cliff Waldron’s New Shades of Grass.

It was with Waldron in 1968 that Emerson’s banjo turned Manfred Mann’s folk-rock song, “Fox on the Run,” into a bluegrass classic.

He returned to the Gentlemen in 1969 for four years and then began a 20-year career in the U.S. Navy, leading the Navy’s bluegrass band Country Current.

A few years ago, Emerson created Sweet Dixie and hit the road again.

Only one Emerson original — “State Line Ride” — is featured on the new album, “Dancin’ Annie.” But there’s a strong collection of good songs on the album.

Chris Stifel, the band’s guitarist, wrote and sings lead on the title track about a city girl who was happy in the country until the bright lights called her back.

He also sings lead on “Days When You Were Mine,” a song about a man spending years regretting breaking up with the woman he loves.

Teri Chism, the bass player, sings lead on “The Only Wind That Blows,” a song about loneliness that says when he’s away “the night is just a dark place.”

She also sings lead on “Walkin’ After Midnight,” Patsy Cline‘s first major hit in 1957.

Wayne Lanham, the mandolin player, takes over lead vocals on the gospel ballad, “Will A Light Be Shining Bright.”

He also wrote, “Whistle Stop,” an uptempo instrumental on the album.

Another good album by one of the legends of bluegrass.

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JIM & JESSE & THE VIRGINIA BOYS, “Radio Shows,” Rural Rhythm. 24 tracks

March 17, 2014

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Jim & Jesse McReynolds joining Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry. And Rural Rhythm Records is celebrating by re-releasing an album with 24 songs recorded as part of their radio shows on WBAM in Montgomery, Ala., in 1962.

It was first released as an LP in 1978.

At the time of Jim McReynolds’ death on New Year’s Eve 2002, the McReynolds were the longest active professional duet act in country music history.

Jesse McReynolds, who survived a bout with cancer the year his brother died, is still performing today at 84.

Most of the tracks on the album are requests sent in by fans of their radio show — songs like “Foggy Mountain Top,” “Precious Memories,” “There’s More Pretty Girls Than One” and “Sitting On Top Of The World.”

It even includes the Martha White Flour jingle that opened and closed the shows.

The Virginia Boys, at the time of these recordings, were Allen Shelton, Jimmy Buchanan, Don McHan and Dave Southerland.

The McReynolds brothers began performing together in 1947 and landed their first major label recording deal — with Capitol Records — in 1952.

This album offers fans a chance to turn back the clock 52 years and hear the McReynolds brothers — and their band — in their prime.

It also includes online access to a video interview with Jesse McReynolds and photos from his private collection.

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THE HARPER FAMILY BAND, “Through It All,” Pisgah Ridge. 10 tracks.

March 10, 2014

The Harper Family Band, a bluegrass gospel group from the Missouri Ozarks, is blessed with four strong lead singers.

But it’s been going through some hard times and changes since its fifth album, “Through It All,” was recorded.

The band’s website says that Dalton Harper, the 20-year-old guitarist and vocalist, is battling Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

And 19-year-old Dillon Harper, the mandolin player and vocalist, will be enrolling in seminary in April. That takes him and his wife, Makeena, another good vocalist, out of the band’s traveling lineup.

But they’re all together on the new album.

Hannah Harper, the band’s 14-year-old fiddle player, sings lead on the title track, an Andre Crouch song, “The Judgment” and “A Portion of His Love.”

You’d never believe she’s that young from her voice.

There are two original songs on the album — Dalton Harper’s “Child of the King” and Katrina (the mother and bass player) Harper’s “Don’t You Want To Meet Him.” Each sings lead on their song.

Dalton Harper’s lead singing on “In A Moment Just Like This” sounds a bit eerie when you realize his medical problems. The song finds a doctor telling a patient that the news isn’t good, but the patient has practiced faith all his life for “a moment just like this.”

A strong bluegrass album that doesn’t stint on either the bluegrass or the gospel.

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MATT WALLACE, “For A Season,” Pinecastle. 10 tracks.

March 3, 2014

Matt Wallace isn’t a household name yet. But he’s on his way.

He currently plays bass for Mark Newton and Steve Thomas as well as Terry Baucom’s Dukes of Drive.

And he’s already made his mark with such bands as David Parmley & Continental Divide, Audie Blaylock & Redline, Pine Mountain Railroad and Paul Williams & the Victory Trio.

Now Wallace has released his first solo album, “For A Season.”

Although he has a fine voice and does sing lead on five tracks, Wallace brought in Jesse Gregory to cover Norah Jones’ “Creepin’ In” and Maybelle Carter‘s “Lonesome Homesick Blues”; Jerry Cole for “Got Leaving On Her Mind”; Paul Brewster for Neil Diamond’s “Long Gone”; and Wayne Taylor for “Have You Come To Say Goodbye.”

The album’s first single, “Old Man Winter,” is an uptempo song that asks Winter to thaw the frozen heart of the woman who left him even though “it’s colder than the day she said goodbye.”

There’s plenty of gospel on the album too — “Another Mile,” “Mercy Walked In” and “I Want To Know More About My Lord.”

It’s a good album. Hopefully next time, Wallace will trust his own voice and not bring in as may guest vocalists.

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CHARLSEY ETHERIDGE, “Memories of Mine,” no label. 10 tracks.

February 24, 2014

Charlsey Etheridge is a new talent in Nashville with a radio-friendly voice.

Her first album, though, is largely a calling card, showing what she can do with a song.

There are no original songs on the album.

It’s a blend of gospel, folk, country and bluegrass with a little swing and jazz thrown in.

You’ll find a piano, electric guitar and percussion on some of the songs. And some traditional bluegrass fans will be turned off by that.

But these are mostly gospel, country and bluegrass standards that Etheridge is putting her stamp on.

There’s “Wayfaring Stranger,” “Keep Your Eyes on Jesus,” “Amazing Grace,” “Land of Beulah,” “Tennessee Waltz,” “The Old Rugged Cross” and “Take My Hand, Precious Lord.”

Etheridge’s take on “Blue Moon of Kentucky” is more Elvis than Monroe. And “In The Pines” is more jazz than bluegrass.

“Filipino Baby,” a song the Dalton, Ga., native learned from her grandmother, dates back to the Spanish-American War. But it gained popularity again during and after World War II.

She makes them all sound fresh.

Etheridge obviously has the talent to make a name for herself in bluegrass.

Hopefully, her next album will include original material that will establish her presence in the genre.

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DARREN NICHOLSON, “Things Left Undone,” no label. 12 tracks.

February 17, 2014

Darren Nicholson’s “Things Left Undone” is one of the best bluegrass albums of the new year –and it’s not even on a major label.

Nicholson is the mandolin player for Balsam Range, one of the best bluegrass bands to come down the pike in recent years.

His resume includes stints with the Alecia Nugent Band, Audie Blaylock & Redline and The Crowe Brothers.

Balsam Range’s website says, “Darren Nicholson is one of the most gifted mandolins players and harmony singers ever to come from the Southern Mountains.”

He’s a pretty good lead singer too.

Some might think the album is a little too close to country. And it is how country sounded when it was still good. But a lot of bluegrass these days is leaning in that direction to capture disenfranchised traditional country fans.

The title cut is a gospel ballad about dying. It asks the question: “Will you remember your successes or do you regret things left undone.”

“Durango” is a tale of a woman who’s had her heart broken by a banjo man and has had all the bluegrass she can stand.

“Like My Dog” finds a man wondering why his woman can’t be more like his dog and just love him without complaining.

“Give Mother My Crown” is an old gospel song about mothers.

“In A Perfect World,” the song says, his words wouldn’t scar her heart and he’d have nothing to hide. But, it says, life’s not that way.

Special guests include Rhonda Vincent, Carl Jackson, Bobby Hicks, Audie Blaylock and a lot more.

Two bonus tracks — “Way I’ve Always Been” and “Can’t You See” — feature the Darren Nicholson Band with Kevin Sluder on lead vocals.

But Nicholson doesn’t really need any help on lead vocals. He’s good enough on his own.

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

THE EASTER BROTHERS, “I’d Do It All Over Again,” Pisgah Ridge. 10 tracks.

February 11, 2014

When Russell, James and Ed Easter began playing bluegrass gospel music around Danville, Va., in the the early 1950s — some sources say 1951, some say 1953 — the high lonesome sound popularized by Bill Monroe hadn’t even been labeled “bluegrass.”

Elvis was still in high school, Americans were fighting in Korea and 45 rpm records were beginning to replace the old 78s on turntables.

More than six decades later, the Easter Brothers, now creeping into their 80s, are still performing the sound that made them legends in bluegrass gospel.

And the title of the latest of their many albums, “I’d Do It All Over Again,” says it all.

Gerald Crabb, a family friend, wrote three of the tracks including the title cut. But all the rest were written by Easters.

There’s a lot of uptempo material like “Let The Hallelujahs Roll,” “I Didn’t Leave The Way I Came” and the title track.

“You Can’t Judge A Book By Its Cover” says we shouldn’t throw stones at others just because they don’t live the way we do. It’s a message that’s too often lacking these days.

Ballads include “The Crossing,” “The Lost Sheep” and “Old-Fashioned Talk With The Lord.”

There’s one sort of secular song on the album — “The Good Old Days,” which is filled with nostalgia for both the old-time religion and life on the farm.

After more than 60 years together, the Easter Brothers’ harmonies are still strong and remind fans why they’ve been so popular for so long.

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KRISTY COX, “Living For The Moment,” Pisgah Ridge. 10 tracks.

February 3, 2014

It’s been 18 years since Kristy Cox hit the Australian bluegrass scene as an 11-year-old prodigy.

Now, she’s in Nashville, working on a career in American bluegrass.

Cox’s new Pisgah Ridge album, “Living For The Moment,” hits stores on Feb. 18.

She co-wrote five of the 10 songs on the album, two of them with Jerry Salley, a 30-year Nashville veteran who produced the album and joins Cox for a duet on “When It Comes To You,” a song about someone who knows it’s time to leave a bad relationship but can’t seem to make the break.

Salley also co-wrote four other songs.

“Love Builds The Bridge (Pride Builds The Walls)” is a classic country sound, first recorded by Patty Loveless in 1993. Cox’s version is equally good.

“My Kind of Train Wreck” is a hard-driving song about a love affair that’s headed for trouble — “I never heard the whistle/But I felt the crash.”

“One Heartbreak Away” finds her ready to leave — “Before a teardrop hits the floor, I’ll be gone.”

“I’m Not Gonna Sing The Blues” finds her trying to figure out who she is without him. But she’s not going to waste any tears on him.

“Widow’s Whiskey” tells the story of a woman who’s drinking her life away after her husband ripped the keys from her hand and drove away.

Good album by a promising new talent.

TONY TRISCHKA, “Great Big World,” Rounder. 13 tracks.

January 27, 2014

Tony Trischka calls his latest album “Great Big World.”

It’s an apt description of the album, which embraces a big world of musical styles and genres, while keeping one foot solidly in bluegrass.

That’s been the case for Trischka for the past 50 years.

At 65, he’s no longer the new kid on the block. He’s one of the legends.

And this album adds to his status as one of the more inventive musicians on the planet.

The Syracuse, N.Y., native began playing banjo in 1963, after hearing the Kingston Trio’s “Charlie and the MTA.”

Then, he discovered bluegrass legend Earl Scruggs and never looked back.

Bill Monroe, Trischka says, “was a huge influence on me and he’s still at the heart of everything I do.”

But don’t expect traditional bluegrass.

There’s “Joy,” a Trischka gospel original sung by Catherine Russell with verses adapted from Buddhist, Christian and Jewish texts.

“Wild Bill Hickok” is a five-minute western saga sung by Ramblin’ Jack Elliott with additional vocals by Mike Compton and a dramatic reading by John Goodman.

“Say Goodbye (for KM)” is a tribute to the late singer-songwriter Kate McGarrigle.

And then, there’s “Single String Medley,” which features five tunes each played on a different string.

Steve Martin joins Trischka on “Promontory Point,” a tune they composed together.

Other guests include Mike Barnett, Michael Daves, Skip Ward, Andy Statman, Russ Barenberg, Naom Pikelny, Aoife O’Donovan, Abigail Washburn, Chris Eldridge, Larry Campbell, Oteil Burbridge and Trischka’s son, Sean.

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