THE TENNESSEE MAFIA JUG BAND, “Lester’s Lofain’ Lounge,” no label. 15 tracks

Posted August 10, 2015 by klawrence
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It’s been almost a dozen years since The Tennessee Mafia Jug Band released “Barnyard Frolic,” an album that garnered a lot of attention from people who like their music a tad on the raw side.

“Lester’s Loafin’ Lounge,” the band’s fifth album, is dedicated to the memory of the Jug Band’s founder, “Lonesome” Lester Armistead, who died of cancer last year at age 71.

His Loafin’ Lounge is a former general store in Goodlettsville, Tennessee, where country and bluegrass legends and just regular folks have been jamming for decades.

Be advised though that there are no jugs listed among the instruments on the album.

There’s knee slapping, maracas, a washboard, eefin’, a ukulele, drums, piano, steel guitar, guitar, banjo, fiddle, mandolin, Dobro and bass.

But no jugs.

Band members are Mike Armistead, Leroy Troy, Dan Kelly, Mike Webb and Ernie Sykes.

Webb wrote three songs for the album — the title track, “Hillbilly Logic” and “Wood and Strings,” a song about a guitar.

Most of the material dates back to the heyday of traditional country music — “I’m My Own Grandpa” was a 1947 hit by Lonzo & Oscar; “Bridge Washed Out” was a 1965 hit by Warner Mack; “Count Me Out” was a 1966 hit by Marty Robbins; and “Mansion On A Hill” was a 1948 hit by Hank Williams.

“Grey Eagle” and “Trombone Rag” are traditional numbers.

Until the 1950s, country, folk, western, bluegrass and any number subgenres of the music were all lumped under the “hillbilly” label.

But people like Roy Acuff, Bill Monroe and Ernest Tubb considered the label demeaning and fought for more politically correct names for their sounds.

Today, though, a new generation is returning to its roots with pride in the word “hillbilly.”

And that’s what this is — roots music with no borders.

It’s a little bit of everything.

And it’s good.

You can tell these guys are having fun.

Can’t find it in stores?


CHRIS JONES & THE NIGHT DRIVERS, “Run Away Tonight,” Mountain Home. 12 tracks.

Posted June 29, 2015 by klawrence
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Chris Jones started the Night Drivers 20 years ago.

Bass man Jon Weisberger and banjomeiser Ned Luberecki came aboard in 2003.

The new guy, mandolin player Mark Stoffel, has been with them since 2008.

Few bands have kept the same lineup that long.

The new album, “Run Away Tonight,” won’t be available for nearly two months — Aug. 21.

But its worth the wait for the band’s fan base.

Each member of the band wrote at least one song and Jones and/or Weisberger wrote a combined seven.

In fact, the only songs members of the band didn’t write were Tom T. Hall’s “Pinto The Wonder Horse is Dead,” a song about the death of a hero of the silver screen of yesteryear; Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs “Thinking About You”; and the traditional “The Leaving of Liverpool,” a song that dates to the 19th century.

There are a couple of instruments — Stoffel’s “Shelby 8” and Luberecki’sBowties Are Cool.”

“Laurie” is a playful song about a man trying to entice a woman out into the moonlight.

“One Night in Paducah” is the musical saga of a heartbroken man who finds untrue love while gambling on a riverboat and then wakes up on a levee with a hurting head and empty pockets.

“Once You’re Gone” and “She’s About To Say Goodbye” both find a man knowing that the woman who loves him is about to leave forever.

But “Dust Off  The Pain” finds him searching for a new and better love.

And “Tonight I’m Gonna Ride” finds him on the road searching for a healthier town — and not coming back.

The album ends with a gospel song, “My Portion And My Cup.”

Good album by a good band that’s stood the test of time.

Can’t find it in stores? To preview songs or order the album, try

UNDERHILL ROSE, “The Great Tomorrow,” no label. 11 tracks.

Posted June 15, 2015 by klawrence
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Listening to Underhill Rose‘s new album is like sitting on a shady veranda on a hot summer day with a paddle-fan overhead and a sweaty pitcher of lemonade beside you.

It’s that sweet and relaxing.

Most of the songs are ballads with harmonies that smooth away the stresses of life.

The Asheville, North Carolina-based trio was formed in 2009 by Eleanor Underhill and Molly Rose Reed. Salley Williamson, the bass player, joined later, making the duo a trio.

Their 2013 album, “Something Real,” spent 10 weeks in the Americana Music Association’s Top 20.

And this album is likely to repeat or excel that.

All but one of the songs — Elliot Wolff‘s “Straight Up” — were written by band members.

“The Great Tomorrow” fits into that growing genre called Americana.

It’s not exactly bluegrass with its drums and electric guitars.

But it’s close enough for all but the most traditional fans.

Reed’s “When I Die” expresses sentiments you probably haven’t heard before — “When I die/wrap me in cotton/bury me low in the gournd/so that I may be helpful to the worms and the robins/while my soul takes its cosmic crown.”

Underhill’s “Whispering Pines Motel” begins, “There’s heat in the air tonight/with the smell of honeysuckle vines/driving past the Whispering Pines Motel.”

And you know something is going to happen there.

Reed’s “My Friend” says, “We grow up/we grow out of each other/the hardest part of all/now that we are at the end/is that I just can’t stand losing my friend.”

Williamson’s “Shine” is about a family held together by the moonshine trade — “The moon shines east/the moon shines west/but the moonshine from our cellar’s best.”

Underhill’s “The Great Tomorrow” offers the hope that “in the morning, it’s all gonna be better/in the morning, I’m gonna get it together.”

Good album. Good band.

It’ll be available on June 30.

Can’t find it in stores? Try

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


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