LAURA ORSHAW, “Songs of Lost Yesterdays,” no label. 11 tracks.

Posted May 26, 2015 by klawrence
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Laura Orshaw‘s grandmother, Betty Orshaw, a musician in northeastern Pennsylvania, taught her to sing and play fiddle when Laura was 10 years old.

As a teenager, she toured the Northeast with her father’s bluegrass band, The Lonesome Road Ramblers.

Today, Orshaw, coordinator for the Expressive Therapies Graduate Program at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is still performing and teaching private lessons..

Her latest album, “Songs of Lost Yesterdays,” features a mix of traditional and original songs and some that hold special memories for Orshaw.

Traditional songs include “Going To The West,” a song believed to date back to the 19th century; “Row Number 2, Seat Number 3,” a 1956 hit for Wilma Lee Cooper; and “Sailor on the Deep Blue Sea,” an old song popularized by the Carter Family.

Original songs include “Guitar Man,” about a woman enchanted by a guitar player in a depot, and “New Deal Train,” a song about a train bringing food to a town during the Great Depression.

Other songs include Charlie Moore’s “The Cotton Farmer,” Norman Blake‘s “Uncle,” Peter Rowan’s “Wild Geese Cry Again,” Bill Bryson‘s “Love Me or Leave Me Alone” and Hazel Dickens “Coal Miner’s Grave.”

Can’t find it in stores? Try and iTunes.


STEVE HARRIS, “Sundown,” Orange Blossom Records. 11 tracks.

Posted May 18, 2015 by klawrence
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Steve Harris grew up in a family band that specialized in bluegrass gospel.

But as a young man, he put the music aside to concentrate on his career.

Then, in 2007, at a bluegrass festival, Harris rediscovered his love for bluegrass music.

After three years of re-establishing himself as a musician, he founded the band Circa Blue, which has released two albums to date.

Now, Harris has released his first solo album — “Sundown.”

It’s all bluegrass gospel.

Many of the songs are familiar hymns from his — and many other people’s — childhoods.

That list includes “In The Garden,” “I’ll Fly Away,” “Where Could I Go,” “Drifting Too Far From The Shore” and “Softly And Tenderly.”

Also featured are Louis Marshall “Grandpa” Jones “Falling Leaves” and the title cut, originally recorded by the Chuck Wagon Gang.

All of the songs are ones Harris grew up singing or listening to.

Mary Paula Wilson sings lead on “Someday My Ship Will Sail” and Sarah Harris of Trinity River Band sings lead on “Falling Leaves.”

Steve Harris, who sings lead on the rest, has a pleasant voice and the picking is first class.

THE STEELDRIVERS, “The Muscle Shoals Recordings,” 11 tracks. Rounder.

Posted May 11, 2015 by klawrence
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The SteelDrivers created a lot of excitement in 2008, when they roared out of Nashville with a sound best described as having Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys backing Bob Seger.

Lead singer Chris Stapleton’s mountain growl — infusing bluegrass with soul — was unlike anything on the radio.

Some called it “outlaw grass.” Some called in “bluesgrass.” Some called it “mountain soul.”

Whatever you called it, people took notice.

But two years later, Stapleton decided that he didn’t want to spend his life on the road and left the band.

Gary Nichols, a Muscle Shoals, Alabama, native, took over the lead singer post with his Southern soul sound.

And the band never missed more than a beat or two.

Now, Nichols and his bandmates have gone to his hometown to record an album that blends soul, blues, bluegrass, rhythm & blues, county, rock’n’roll and maybe a hint of gospel into what The SteelDrivers do best — create great music.

Nichols and fiddle player Tammy Rogers wrote most of the songs on the album.

“Brother John” tells the tale of a man who killed a lawman’s son because he wanted the man’s wife.

“River Runs Red” is about the Civil War’s Battle of Stones River on Dec. 31, 1862, in Tennessee, when nearly 3,000 men were killed. But there were “no winners or losers when you count the dead,” Nichols growls.

“Long Way Down” finds a man condemning his woman for messing around and telling her that it”s “a long way to hell for a fallen angel.”

Drinkin’ Alone” is about a man going wild after his woman walks out on him.

“Day Before Temptation” finds a man playing with fire and riding shotgun with a driver called Temptation, knowing that he’ll wind up drunk and broke.

“Here She Goes” is about a man who knows his woman is about to leave him because she hasn’t been happy in a long time.

“Six Feet Away” warns people to make the most of every day because on any given day “we’re only six feet away from the bottom of a grave.”

Good album by a band that’s still going strong after seven years.

It hits record stores on June 16.

But if you can’t find it then, try


DAILEY & VINCENT, “Alive! In Concert,” Cracker Barrel. 15 tracks.

Posted April 20, 2015 by klawrence
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It’s hard to believe that it’s been eight years since Jamie Dailey and Darrin Vincent launched their duet act.

During those years, they’ve won 14 International Bluegrass Music Association awards, including entertainer of the year three times, and been labeled the “rockstars of bluegrass.”

But “Alive! In Concert” is their first live album — recorded and filmed for public television at the Hylton Performing Arts Center in Manassas, Va.

Some people will likely complain about the 50-piece George Mason University Student Orchestra or the 100-member chorale — Manassas Chorale, Gainesville Community Chorus and the combined university choruses.

Bluegrass, they’ll say, isn’t played by orchestras or sung by chorales.

And they would be technically correct.

But the result is good enough to give Dailey & Vincent the benefit of the doubt.

Some of the songs might not be something Bill Monroe would call bluegrass.

But they’re still exciting.

And the orchestra only appears on four songs — “We’re All Here To  Learn,” “Oh Baby Mine,” “Atlanta Blue” and “Till They Came Home.”

Dailey co-wrote four of the songs — “We’re All Here To Learn,” “Simple Man,” “Mississippi River” and “American Pride.”

There’s a Statler Brothers tribute that includes “Oh, Baby Mine,” “Elizabeth” and “Atlanta Blue.”

Jimmy Fortune, a former Statler, wrote “I Believe” and co-wrote “Beyond Romance” and “American Pride.”

“Nine Yards,” the album’s only instrumental, was written by B.J. Cherryholmes and performed by him and his sister, Molly.

“Till They Came Home” is a song tracing couples through several wars — from World War II to the Persian Gulf.

“Oh What A Time” is uptempo gospel and “Less of Me” is a gospel song written by Glen Campbell.

The album and DVD will both be in Cracker Barrel stores nationwide on April 27.

DVDs can also be ordered from

Both will be available at

STEVE GULLEY & NEW PINNACLE, “Steve Gulley & New Pinnacle,” Rural Rhythm. 12 tracks.

Posted April 13, 2015 by klawrence
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Steve Gulley has made his mark in bluegrass several time through the years.

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.

Then, he began working solo or with Dale Ann Bradley.

Now, he’s leading his own band, New Pinnacle.

The name has a long history.

Gulley’s father, Don Gulley, was a founding member of the bluegrass band, Pinnacle Mountain Boys, years ago.

The new band features Bryan Turner on bass, Gary Robinson Jr. on mandolin and Matthew Cruby on banjo.

The new self-titled album is Gulley’s second in seven months.

In September, he released his first gospel album, “Family, Friends & Fellowship,” which featured an all-star lineup of friends.

Gulley wrote or co-wrote five songs on the album, including “Leaving CrazyTown,” the first single.

He also wrote “You’re Gone,” “She’s A Taker,” “That Ground’s Too Hard To Plow” about bad women and the hard-driving gospel number, “You Can’t Take Jesus Away.”

There are several covers — “It’s A Long, Long Way To The Top Of The World,” the old Jim & Jesse song; “Don’t You Ever Get Tired of Hurting Me,” a hit for Ray Price in 1965 and Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away,” the B-side of “Oh, Boy” in 1957.

Tim Crouch’s excellent guest fiddle work on “Long, Long Way” and “Hurting Me” makes you wonder how the band can do those numbers without a fiddle.

One of the album’s highlights is the GulleyAmanda Smith duet on the Louvin Brothers “Every Time You Leave.”

Good album by one of bluegrass music’s best vocalists.

Can’t find it in stores? Try

THE BALOS FAMILY, “Built Upon The Rock,” 10 tracks.

Posted April 6, 2015 by klawrence
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The Michigan-based Balos Family has been on the road since Easter Sunday 2002, picking and singing bluegrass gospel at churches, festivals and theaters.

Through the years, the family band has grown to nine members —Mike and Ramona Balos and their seven children, ranging in age from 17 to 6.

Their latest album, “Built Upon The Rock,” features eight songs written by family members — four by Ben, three by Jimmy and one by Bonnie.

Only two of the 10 tracks come from outside writers.

The music ranges from hard-charging numbers like “Cross To The Other Side” and “Have I Told You” to ballads like the title cut and “Just A Cup of Water.”

The most interesting title is Jimmy Balos “Zombie In A Pew,” a song about people who only think about their religious values on Sunday mornings.

Band members include Michael Balos (rythym guitar), Ramona Balos (upright bass), Kenny Balos (lead guitar), Ben Balos (mandolin), Bonnie Balos (banjo), Jimmy Balos (fiddle), Jenna Balos (Dobro), Nathanael Balos (mandolin) and Joel Balos (ukulele).

A solid bluegrass gospel album.

Can’t find it in stores? Try

RONNIE RENO, “Lessons Learned,” Rural Rhythm. 11 tracks.

Posted March 30, 2015 by klawrence
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This year, Ronnie Reno celebrates his 60th anniversary in bluegrass.

Not bad for a guy who’s 67 years old.

He started performing with his father, Don Reno, on the Old Dominion Barn Dance in 1955.

Through the years, he’s worked with his father, the Osborne Brothers, Merle Haggard and a lot more musicians before going his own way.

Reno also hosts the television series, “Reno’s Old-Time Music  Festival,” on RFD-TV

“Lessons Learned” is his first album in almost a decade.

He wrote or co-wrote all but two of the songs — his father’s “Trail of Sorrow” and Lefty Frizzell’s No. 1 single from 1951, “Always Late.”

Lefty’s brother, David Frizzell, joins Reno for a duet on the song.

“Lower Than Lonesome,” the album’s first single, says, “love gets you high, then turns around and says goodbye.”

The title cut says that “joy and pain go together like sun and rain.”

“Bad News At Home,” “Our Last Goodbye” and “Trail of Sorrow” are all about break-ups and pain.

But the album has an almost playful sound — like the instrumental, “Reno’s Mando Magic.”

Bluegrass has always been able to marry sad lyrics to uptempo, almost happy picking.

Reno comes across as an old master, in a comfortable setting, saying, “I know it’s rough now, but it will pass.”

“I Think of You” is a song about a love that’s lasted a lifetime.

And “Deep Part Of Your Heart” says that’s the part of a person’s heart reserved for the one’s you love the most.

Despite all the lonesome songs, “Lessons Learned” is really about surviving life’s hard knocks and finding love.

Can’t find it in stores? Try


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