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 DaileyAndVincent.com.

Both will be available at CrackerBarrel.com.

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 SteveGulley.com.

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 www.cdbaby.com/cd/thebalosfamily5.

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 ronniereno.com.

SNYDER FAMILY BAND, “Wherever I Wander,” Mountain Home. 11 tracks

Posted March 16, 2015 by klawrence
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Mountain Home Music describes the Snyder Family Band’s sound as “Allman Brothers Band meets Stephane Grappelli meets Doc Watson.”

In other words, it’s not Bill Monroe‘s bluegrass.

Their sound is a blend of bluegrass, southern rock, blues, Texas swing and newgrass, primarily done with acoustic instruments, although an electric guitar does show up on a couple of songs on their debut Mountain Home album — “Wherever I Wander.”

This is a band on the move.

Samantha Snyder, the band’s principal songwriter and vocalist as well as its fiddle player, is 16.

Her brother, Zeb, the guitarist and mandolin player, is 19.

Their father, Bud, plays bass for the family band.

Samantha wrote five songs. Zeb wrote three.

And there are covers of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Swamp Music,” Dickey Betts “Highway Call” and the 1918 jazz standard “After You’ve Gone.”

There are five instrumentals to showcase the trio’s picking and seven songs to showcase their vocal chops.

Samantha Snyder’s songs have an old sound to them.

Songs like the uptempo gospel title track,  “A Whaler’s Song,” and “The Keeper,” a rare modern song about a lighthouse keeper.

Good album by a good band that should be going places.

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

POKEY LaFARGE, “Something in the Water,” Rounder. 12 tracks.

Posted March 9, 2015 by klawrence
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Pokey LaFarge isn’t a bluegrass artist and there’s nothing on his latest album, “Something in the Water,” that remotely sounds like bluegrass.

But the St. Louis-based musician has appeared at several bluegrass festivals, including the International Bluegrass Music Museum’s ROMP: Bluegrass Roots & Branches Festival.

And he has a large fan base among younger bluegrass fans.

So, his seventh album since 2006 is definitely worth taking note of.

Fans of HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” might have heard LaFarge without realizing who he was.

In 2013, he performed the jazz standard “Lovesick Blues” with Vince Giordano’s Nighthawks as background music in the series.

“Something in the Water,” which hits the market on April 7, features early jazz, ragtime, country blues, Western swing and a few styles that haven’t yet been named.

LaFarge wrote or co-wrote 10 of the 12 tracks on the album.

The other two are the blues standards, “When Did You Leave Heaven” and “All Night Long.”

Musicians featured include members of LaFarge’s band along with members of  NRBQ, the Fat Babies, the Modern Sounds and the Western Elstons playing electric guitar, drums, organs, pianos and horns.

Definitely instruments you wouldn’t hear on a bluegrass album.

But the lyrics could fit into some progressive bluegrass songs.

“She got a broke down El Camino in the front yard up on blocks,” LaFarge sings in the title track.

“Where have all the good girls gone?,” he asks in “Far Away.” “Was there ever one?”

In “Bad Girl,” LaFarge warns, “You can try your best to behave/But I know you have the devil inside of you.”

And in “Knocking The Dust Off The Rust Belt Tonight,” he sings, “Take a jazz band with a country beat/It’s Midwestern Swing for your dancin’ feet/We’re gonna knock the dust off the rust belt tonight.”

Good album by a man who’s doing it his way.

Can’t find it in stores? You can pre-order it at www.PokeyLaFarge.net.

CODY SHULER, “Cody Shuler,” Rural Rhythm. 12 tracks.

Posted March 2, 2015 by klawrence
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Cody Shuler, a North Carolina native, began his bluegrass career 14 years ago at age 15, playing mandolin for Raymond Fairchild.

In 2004, he joined Pine Mountain Railroad and took over ownership and management of the band two years later.

The band has scored six No. 1 bluegrass songs since then.

And now, Shuler is stepping out on his own with his first solo album — a collection of 12 songs he’s written.

The first release, “My Home Is On This Ole Boxcar,” is an uptempo song about an old hobo talking about his great his life is.

“The Beautiful Hills” is a murder ballad about a man who discovers the woman he loves with another man and kills them.

“Listen To The Hammer Ring” is about a chain gang and what happens to the warden when he messes with a convict’s wife.

“Sea of Galilee” and “The Day Love Was Nailed To A Tree” are gospel songs.

The album features an all-star cast of musicians, including Terry Baucom, Scott Vestal, Ron Stewart, Tim Crouch, Rob Ickes, Eli Johnston and Scott Linton.

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


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