CLAYBANK, “Playing Hard To Forget,” Rural Rhythm. 12 tracks

Posted September 26, 2016 by klawrence
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ClayBank isn’t a person.

It’s a bluegrass band — named for Claybank Road in the Claybank community in West Jefferson, North Carolina, where the band rehearses.

ClayBank has only been active for a little over a year, but it’s already gaining a lot of attention with its debut album.

The first single, “Up On Claybank,” recently made it into Bluegrass Today’s Top 15 singles.

ClayBank’s lead singers — Zack Arnold and Jacob Greer — are still in their teens.

But they’ve both been musicians for years.

They wrote “Up On Claybank” and the instrumental, “Foot of the Phoenix.

And Gary Trivette, the bass player, wrote and sings lead on “Daddy Would Sing,” a song about a hard-working farmer whose singing could be heard until the day he died.

“Demise of Handsome Molly” is a murder ballad.

“It Almost Feels Like Love,” one of the best sounds on the album, features the trio vocals of Greer, Arnold and Trivette.

“Sticking With The Old Stuff” and “I Believe” are bluegrass gospel.

The title track is a ballad about a man who took the woman he loves for granted — and lost her.

A good debut by a band that should be going places.

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

 

ADAM STEFFEY, “Here To Stay,” Mountain Home Music. 12 tracks.

Posted August 30, 2016 by klawrence
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At 50, Adam Steffey has spent more than half of his life on the bluegrass music trail.

He has been a member of such bands as Alison Krauss & Union Station, The Isaacs and Mountain Heart.

And these days, Steffey is a member of The Boxcars —  the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Instrumental Group Of The Year from 2011 through 2013.

He’s won the IBMA’s mandolin player of the year award an unprecedented 11 times.

But “Here To Stay,” which Steffey surely is, is only his fourth solo album.

It features new recordings of songs that Steffey helped make popular through his years with other bands.

You don’t see Tex Ritter with songwriting credit on many bluegrass albums.

But “Dear John,” which was recorded by Hank Williams in 1951, definitely fits well into bluegrass.

So do the Wilburn Brothers‘ “Town That Never Sleeps” and “Little Liza Jane,” a song that dates to before the Civil War.

Shawn Lane‘s “Mountain Man” tells the story of a man who refuses to sell his land to the government and is willing to fight for it.

“Town That Isn’t There” is about a place destroyed by coal mining.

“Twister (Devil’s Dance)” is about a man watching a tornado destroy his farm.

Instrumentals include “Pitching Wedge,” “Hell Among The Yearlings” and “Come Thou Fount.”

Another good album by a bluegrass master.

Look for it Sept. 23.

If you can’t find it in stores, try AdamSteffey.com.

 

STUART WYRICK, “East Tennessee Sunrise,” Rural Rhythm. 12 tracks.

Posted August 15, 2016 by klawrence
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Stuart Wyrick has been playing banjo in bluegrass bands for years with the likes of The Tater Creek Boys, the Better Way Quartet, New Road, Brand New Strings, the Dale Ann Bradley Band and now Flashback, a reunion band of musicians who worked with J.D. Crowe & the New South in the mid-1990s.

Surprisingly, “East Tennessee Sunrise” is his first solo album.

Wyrick is joined by some top musicians here including Kenny Smith, Alan Bibey, Tim Crouch, Phil Leadbetter and Steve Gulley.

He wrote three of the five instrumentals — the title track, “Jennifer Dale Breakdown” and “Riding On The Clouds.”

Dale Ann Bradley provides the vocals on Dolly Parton’s “When Somebody Wants To Leave,” the album’s best track.

The list of guest vocalists includes Gary Kidwell on the Louvin Brothers‘ “Born Again,” Keith Garret on Ernest Tubb‘s “Walking The Floor,” Randall Massengill on “You’re The One,” Keith Williams on “Little Moonshine Johnny,” Steve Gulley on “Hitchhiking To California” and Vic Graves on “The Lord Will Make A Way Somehow.”

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

 

THE WEEPING WILLOWS, “Before Darkness Comes A-Callin’,” 10 tracks, no label

Posted August 8, 2016 by klawrence
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Laura Coates and Andy Wrigglesworth, an Australian duo, call themselves The Weeping Willows.

Their sophomore album is called “Before Darkness Comes A-Callin’.”

And the cover art is a picture of the Angel of Death.

So, if you’re expecting a dark album, you’re right.

Theme albums aren’t common in bluegrass or Americana or alt-country or whatever pigeon-hole this album falls into.

But “Darkness” is definitely an album whose theme is, well, darkness.

The Willows say all the songs, at their heart, are love songs.

But light, they are not.

The duo wrote or co-wrote all 10 songs.

“Devil’s Road” is a bluesy tale of despair — “The Devil’s Road gonna steal your soul,” they sing.

“River of Gold,” the first single off the album, is about greed, temptation and surrender.

“Pale Rider” is about the apocalyptic horseman whose name is Death.

“Garden of Tears” is about a man who murders the woman he loves and buries her beneath a rose bush.

“Fallen Ring” is about “a future in misery…until the devil takes you.”

“Valley of Darkness,” a bluesy number, says “in the valley we’re eternally alone.”

But the standout track is a haunting a capella number, “When The Sun Came Down,” which features Sweet Jean (Sime Nugent and Alice Keath) blending their voices with The Willows.

Yes, it’s as dark as midnight on a cloudy night.

But it’s good.

Can’t find it in stores. Try www.theweepingwillows.com.au.

 

KRISTIN SCOTT BENSON, “Stringworks,” Mountain Home, 12 tracks

Posted August 1, 2016 by klawrence
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Kristin Scott Benson is a four-time winner of the International Bluegrass Music Association’s banjo player of the year and she’s been nominated for three Grammys as a member of the Grascals.

She got her first banjo for Christmas when she was 13 and hasn’t stopped seeking new ways to get the instrument to do new things.

“Stringworks,” her third solo album and first since 2009, features six instrumentals and six vocal numbers.

Benson wrote four of the instrumentals — “Great Waterton,” a rambunctious tune based on her son’s building and destroying the block town from Thomas the Train; “Eagle Eye Annie,” a happy tune named for Opie’s fishing rod on “The Andy Griffith Show”; “Traveler’s Rest,” a slow peaceful tune; and “Fisher,” a tune named for her dog.

Benson always includes a traditional tune on her albums. This time, it’s “Foggy Mountain Top.”

Claire Lynch sings lead on “When Fall Comes To New England,” Chris Jones on “All I Want Is You,” Mickey Harris on “Sink or Swim,” Shawn Lane on “You Gotta Climb Over The Cross,” Terry Eldridge on “Foggy Mountain Top,” (which also features her grandfather singing it on a radio show from the 1940s) and Grant Williams on “Till The Day Breaks.”

A good album.

Hopefully, it won’t be seven years until the next one.

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

 

JIM AND LYNNA WOOLSEY, “Heart and Soul, Blood and Bone,” Broken Record Records, 11 tracks.

Posted July 25, 2016 by klawrence
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Jim and Lynna Woolsey have been making music together for nearly four decades, dating back to their time in the 1970s with the Indiana-based Patoka Valley Boys.

But they’re really singer-songwriters, who just happen to work in bluegrass.

In the summer of 2014, they released their first album of original songs, “The Road That Brings You Home.”

Now, they’re back with “Heart and Soul, Blood and Bone,” which features 11 self-penned songs.

The title track is about the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl and those who waited 10 long years for life to get better.

“Faith could move mountains,” it says, “but couldn’t make it rain.”

“Time,” the first single, which features Jim Lauderdale‘s vocals, is about people chasing fame, racing the clock to try to achieve it.

“Just Like Me” is about people filled with rage because of things that are wrong in their lives.

“Notes From Home” tells the story of an old man who  left home years ago and comes home to find a suitcase full of letters his family wrote him years ago, but didn’t how where to send them.

“Pike County Blues” is a humorous look at rural America though the eyes of a man who gave his heart of Jesus but sleeps with a gun.

“Freedom is a tribute to veterans.

And “Lights of Home” is for the people who have to travel to make a living.

Look for it in record stores Aug. 4 or check Amazon or similar websites.

Keith Lawrence (270) 691-7301

klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com

STEVE GULLEY & NEW PINNACLE, “Aim High,” Rural Rhythm. 12 tracks.

Posted July 18, 2016 by klawrence
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Steve Gulley has been around the bluegrass block a few times.

He spent 16 years at historic Renfro Valley as a performer, music director, studio manager and producer.

From there, Gulley spent a couple of years with Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver.

Then, he became a founding member of Mountain Heart, went on to Grasstowne and spent a couple of years working with Dale Ann Bradley.

Last year, he formed New Pinnacle and went on his own.

The band’s first album, which was self-titled, was well received.

And the new album, “Aim High,” should be as well.

Some bluegrass albums these days are more country or Americana than bluegrass.

But “Aim High” is unmistakenly — and unapologetically — bluegrass.

The title track, a hard-charging song about not being afraid to break the mold and take chances, has already topped the Bluegrass Today charts.

Gulley co-wrote three songs — “Deceitful Kind,” “Love Brings You Home” and “Short Life Full of Trouble.”

The first is an untempo murder ballad.

The second is a ballad about a man who’s been everywhere, but now love is calling him home.

The third is a ballad about a man who’s going in style — until he’s murdered.

“Not Now” is the story of a man who doesn’t have time for his wife and son — and then he’s shot and pleads for more time.

“Closer to the Shore” is pure mountain gospel.

“Common Man’s Train of Thought” is a song about politics and who’s going to represent the common people.

Another good album by a man who’s known for good albums.

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

Keith Lawrence (270) 691-7301

klawrence@messenger-inquirer.com