JOHN BOWMAN, “Beautiful Ashes,” Mountain Home. 11 tracks

Posted December 21, 2015 by klawrence
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John Bowman will be celebrating 25 years in bluegrass in 2016.

In 1991, he joined Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver as the tenor singer and guitarist.

Two years later, he moved over to Alison Krauss & Union Station.

In 1994, Bowman left to become part of The Isaacs, where he spent the next 12 years.

He became a minister in 1997 and began preaching revivals across the country.

From 2007 to 2009, Bowman worked with J.D. Crowe & the New South.

And finally, in 2009, he became a founding member of The Boxcars.

These days, Bowman also works as a solo artist and a minister when he’s not with The Boxcars.

“Beautiful Ashes,” his latest album, is bluegrass gospel — if you don’t mind drums and piano in your bluegrass.

“Ashes,” the title track, is about packing up your regrets and dropping them into a fire.

“Let The Hard Times Roll” wants hard times to roll out the door and make room for good times.

“Cold Day in Hell” is about people arguing and saying it would be a cold day in hell before they spoke again.

“Lies The Devil Told” is about the mistakes the singer made in the past, among them thinking that girls loved outlaws and fast cars.

“Reach of His Hand” is about a man who finally reaches for God’s hand after years of going the wrong way.

“When My Travelin’ Days Are Over” is a hard-driving song about heading for heaven.

Good album.

Can’t find it in stores? Try www.johnrbowman.net/music/

THE GRASCALS, “And then there’s this…,” Mountain Home. 12 tracks

Posted December 14, 2015 by klawrence
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It’s been nearly 11 years since The Grascals’ debut album, back when the band was touring with Dolly Parton.

Since then, the band has been named entertainer of the year twice by the International Bluegrass Music Association and been nominated for three Grammys.

One of the founding members, Jamie Johnson, left last year and John Bryan replaced him on guitar and vocals.

The latest album, “And then there’s this…” hits record bins on Jan. 8.

And it’s the same quality that fans have come to expect.

There’s nothing the caliber of Harley Allen‘s “Me and John and Paul,” the standout piece from that first album.

But it’s still a solid album.

“Old Friend of Mine” tells the story of two childhood friends who have drifted apart getting together at a funeral. But whose funeral is the surprise.

“A Place To Hang My Hat” is about a man who is just passing through life on his way to heaven.

“I Know Better” is a hard-driving song about a man wanting to call the woman he loves, even though they are no longer together — but knowing he shouldn’t.

“I Like Trains” is a song about a man who grew up wanting to ride trains and now spends a lot of time on them.

“If You Want Me To” finds the singer ready to leave if she wants him to, but he’d rather stay with her.

“Autumn Glen” is a bouncy instrumental.

And there’s one song from Bill Monroe, the father of bluegrass — “Highway of Sorrow.”

Another good album by a great band.

Can’t find it in stores? Try Grascals.com/store/

 

BILL EMERSON & SWEET DIXIE, “The Gospel Side of Bill Emerson & Sweet Dixie,” Rural Rhythm. 12 tracks

Posted November 30, 2015 by klawrence
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What can you say about a man like Bill Emerson that hasn’t been said?

Emerson, who will be 78 in January,  is one of the most influential banjo players this side of Earl Scruggs.

His 60-year career in bluegrass began with Uncle Bob & the Blue Ridge Partners in 1955.

Two years later, Emerson 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.

Since his retirement from the Navy, Emerson has led Sweet Dixie.

“The Gospel Side” is his fifth album for Rural Rhythm.

Nine of the tracks — songs like “He Knows My Name,” “Keep On The Sunny Side of Life” and “Little Stone Lambs” — were taken from previous albums.

Three — “What A Day,” “Fifty Miles of Elbow Room” and “Drifting Too Far From The Shore” — were recorded for this album.

Vocals are provided by Tom Adams, Teri Chism, Wayne Lanham, Chris Stifel, Wayne Taylor, Randy Waller, Linda Lay and Lauren Mears.

Another good album by a master musician.

Can’t find it in stores? Try www.RuralRhythmStore.com.

Keith Lawrence, 691-7301, klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com 

TAMMY JONES ROBINETTE & THE DRIVE, “Tammy Jones Robinette & The Drive,” Rural Rhythm. 12 tracks

Posted November 16, 2015 by klawrence
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Tammy Jones Robinette started singing when she was 8 years old, at revivals and church services across Ohio and Kentucky.

And she sang with her family on her grandfather’s religious radio program.

Robinette and her three siblings performed at The Jones Family for 12 years.

Then, she made her mark in Nashville as a writer of gospel songs, scoring 26 hits.

Now, Robinette is branching out into bluegrass with a new self-titled album on Rural Rhythm Records.

She wrote four of the songs.

“Be A Kid Again,” the first single off the album, is an uptempo journey down memory lane to childhood.

“The Letter,” a ballad, is about a box filled with letters from a dead son.

“Pages of Time” tells the story of an old mountain cabin where the singer grew up and the parents who are now gone.

“The Colors That Never Ran” is a song about the flag and the men and women who defend it.

“The Man In Those Shoes” is a tribute to working men.

As you would expect from a singer with a background in gospel, there’s a lot of bluegrass gospel on the album —  “I Think I’ll Let You Drive,” “I’ve Got To Work On The Ark,” “There’s A Record Book,” “Mama’s In The Sweet By & By,” “My Rock,” “Love God” and “Oh I Want To See Him.”

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

UNSPOKEN TRADITION, ” Miles Between,” Crossroads. 10 tracks

Posted November 9, 2015 by klawrence
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Unspoken Tradition describes itself as “five working-class guys from North Carolina” who got together in 2013 to play bluegrass.

The three founding members — Lee Shuford and Audie and Zane McGinnis — got together at  picking sessions. And within a year, they were joined by Ty Gilpin and Tim Gardner.

Band members describe their sound as “working-class bluegrass.”

“Miles Between” is the band’s second album.

And like the first, “Simple Little Town,” it’s mostly originals.

The two exceptions are the uptempo “Point of Rocks Station” and “One Mule Plow,” a song about a man working a rocky farm with a mule, hoping the plow doesn’t break and the mule doesn’t die.

“The Bullet” tells the story of violence from the standpoint of a bullet.

In “Been In Love Before,” the singer knows all that can go wrong in a relationship, but he’s still willing to try again.

The title cut, “Miles Between Them,” is about a couple that can’t seem to work out their problems.

“Rivers That I’ve Crossed” is about the 10th anniversary of the death of a woman who drowned in a wreck.

“Losers Like Me” is a ballad about a man killing pain with beer and cigarettes.

“Rattlesnake Run” is a hard-driving instrumental.

“One More Drink” finds a man unable to face his wife because he can’t stop drinking.

“Who Will Sing” sounds like a gospel quartet, but it’s about bluegrass and who will continue to sing the old songs.

Good album by a good band.

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

SHOTGUN HOLLER, “Loaded,” Dry Lightning Records. 11 tracks

Posted October 12, 2015 by klawrence
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Publicity for Shotgun Holler’s debut album uses words like “alternative edge” and “cutting edge.”

But don’t let that throw you.

This is bluegrass.

And it’s good.

Shawn Brock and Matt Jones formed the band in February 2014 with Nathan Treadway and Rod Lunger.

The idea, Brock said, was to create a band with its own sound.

That sound is a cross between classic country and bluegrass.

Jones, formerly with Blue & Lonesome and the Wildwood Valley Boys, is a strong lead singer.

“Out in the Parkin’ Lot,” the first single, is a Guy Clark-Darrell Scott song about people having fun, hanging out in the parking lot listening to the band playing inside a club.

“I Hope Heaven Has A Holler” is a ballad that finds a man hoping that heaven has mountains, woods and a holler so his father will be happy there.

“Clovis Johnson’s Old Red GMC” finds a boy romancing a moonshiner’s daughter and fearing for his life if her father catches them.

“This Side of the Grass” is about a man sitting beside his wife’s grave, telling her about what’s happening with the kids.

“Miner’s Grave” is an uptempo song about a coal miner working his way to an early grave.

“One Lone Tree” finds a man living the fast life in Detroit, thinking about the tree that stands by his mother’s grave and remembering the things she tried to tell him.

And “I Should Have Started Yesterday” is a song about making amends.

Good debut album from a band with a lot of potential.

DONNA ULISSE, “Hard Cry Moon,” Hadley Music Group. 12 tracks

Posted September 28, 2015 by klawrence
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Donna Ulisse headed for the bright lights of Nashville in the 1980s, determined to be a country singer.

She quickly found work as a demo singer and was signed by Atlantic Nashville.

In 1991, the label released her first CD, “Trouble at the Door,” which produced two videos and three singles before disappearing.

But Ulisse came home to bluegrass nearly a decade ago, recast as a “bluegrass poet” who performs “bluegrass without borders.”

And she’s been making some great music ever since.

Ulisse is primarily a singer-songwriter.

Her CDs showcase songs she has written.

And “Hard Cry Moon” is no exception.

The only song Ulisse didn’t write was “Whispering Pines,” a 1959 country hit by Johnny Horton.

Two songs honor her grandfathers — “Workin’ On The C&O” is about Lloyd Porter Butler, her mother’s father’s, life on the railroad and “Papa’s Garden” is about the garden of her father’s father, Carmine Ulisse.

The first single, “It Could Have Been The Mandolin” is about falling in love sitting in the back seat of a Cadillac listening to Bill Monroe on the radio.

“The River’s Runnin’ Free” finds the singer stumbling upon a neighbor acting strange beside the river with blood on his clothes. And where’s his wife been lately?

“Black Train” is a hard-driving song about a woman who is determined to move on and leave her current life behind.

The title track is about a long, lonesome night of missing someone.

“We’re Gonna Find A Preacher” is about a girl on her way to marry a Delta boy that no one trusts.

“I’ll Sleep In Peace At Night” is about having a chance every day to make things right so you can sleep peacefully at night.

Good album by a good singer-songwriter.

Can’t find it in stores?

Try www.DonnaUlisse.com.


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