TROUBLESOME HOLLOW, “Old School,” Fat Dog. 17 tracks.

Posted May 14, 2018 by klawrence
Categories: Uncategorized

If you’re looking for hard-core bluegrass — something that’s getting harder to find every year — look no farther than Troublesome Hollow‘s “Old School.”

It is definitely old-school bluegrass.

Brothers Donnie and Garry Ollis formed the band in 1976 and Tim White came aboard two years later.

They broke up in 1997.

Now, they’re back together again with an album featuring seven original songs and 10 older songs.

Two songs from the early ’90s — “Five Pounds of Possum” and “Possum on the Run” — add humor.

But bluegrass leans more toward heartache and pain.

“Penny Song” and “Jimmy Brown” find children struggling to survive in a cold world.

“Speak Softly,” “Lonesome Feeling,” “Forever More,” “Sittin’ on Top of the Blues,” “Portrait of the Blues,” “Over Yonder in the Graveyard” and “Goin’ Home” all are about trials and tribulations.

“True Love,” however, finds the singer finally happily in love.

This is hard-driving bluegrass with a little Americana on the side.

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FLASHBACK, “Denver Snow,” Pinecastle. 12 tracks

Posted May 7, 2018 by klawrence
Categories: Uncategorized


Flashback is a super group formed in 2015, when members of J.D. Crowe‘s 1995 band decided to reunite to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their 1995 Grammy-nominated album “Flashback.”

They went on tour with Crowe for a few dates.

But Crowe decided to go back to retirement.

The other three — Don Rigsby, Richard Bennett and Curt Chapman — decided that they wanted to keep the group together.

So they hired Stuart Wyrick to play banjo in Crowe’s stead.

Last year, they released “Foxhounds & Fiddles,” an album that charted several bluegrass singles.

“Denver Snow,” the latest album, continues the sound they perfected more than 20 years ago.

“Moonshine” is an uptempo song that celebrates rural life.

The title cut is about a woman whose smile kept a man warm until her love for him died in the mountains.

“A Rose from Time to Time” finds a man saying good-bye to a woman but promising to send her a rose occasionally.

“Cowboys and Indians” is an uptempo instrumental.

“It Won’t Be Like Cheating” is about a man who’s been cheated on and is leaving town.

There are covers of James Taylor‘s “One Morning in May,” the Osborne Brothers‘ “Take This Hammer” and “Born To Be With You,” a 1956 pop hit for the Chordettes and a 1968 country hit for Sonny James.

“Without Mentioning Your Name” and “I’ll Be True To The One I Love” are both about a secret love.

“The Letter” tells the story of a letter found in the pocket of a dead homeless man.

And “We Might Get A Little Loud” is about a church where the members shout their love of God.

Good picking. Good singing. Good album.

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ROE FAMILY SINGERS, “Songs of the Mountains, Songs of the Plains,” Pinecastle. 15 tracks.

Posted April 30, 2018 by klawrence
Categories: Uncategorized


Think all music these days sounds the same?

Wanting an album that sounds different from all the rest?

Then, try the Roe Family Singers.

“Songs of the Mountains, Songs of the Plains” doesn’t sound like anything else you’re likely to hear.

I mean, how many albums these days feature an autoharp, musical saw, washboard, jug and kazoo among the instruments played?

Not to mention Appalachian clogging.

The Roe Family Singers are Kim and Quillan Roe and seven friends who play a wide variety of instruments.

Some of these songs have been around for generations.

The liner notes says  “Pretty Fair Maid in the Garden” dates back to 1822.

“Ida Red” has been around since 1915 and “Ol’ Rattler” since 1919.

Then, there’s A.P. Carter’s “Dixie Darling” and “Sweet Fern.”

And Albert Brumley’s “Rank Strangers.”

These are old songs.

But the Roe Family Singers make them sound fresh again.

And Quillan Roe has even written songs that sound as old as the traditional numbers.

“O Young Lovers,” “John the  Messenger,” “Peter Tosh,” “I’m Falling For You” and “The Road is Rocky” all sound as old as the hills and the plains.

There’s a Bill Monroe song — “Walk Softly on This Heart of Mine” — and a Woody Guthrie song — “This Land is Your Land.”

Chances are you’ve heard all but the original numbers dozens of times.

But you’ve never heard them quite like this.

No, it’s not really bluegrass.

It’s sort of  pre-bluegrass.

But you might want to check it out at starting May 4.

It’s probably the only album this year that includes the Affordable Care Act among its “Thank Yous.”

BALSAM RANGE, “Mountain Overture,” Mountain Home. 10 tracks.

Posted April 23, 2018 by klawrence
Categories: Uncategorized

Balsam Range has joined with the Atlanta Pops Orchestra Ensemble for a greatest hits album.

It sounds great.

But you have to wonder about the target audience.

Do bluegrass fans really want an orchestra backing the band?

And do orchestra fans really want bluegrass with their pops ensemble?

With a cello, flute, French horn, trumpet, trombone and drums, it would be a stretch to call this a bluegrass album.

But whatever you call it, it’s good.

Songs include “Trains I Missed,” the 2011 International Bluegrass Music Association’s song of the year.

“Blue Mountain” is a ballad about a man who’s been searching the country, trying to find out who he really is, but discovering that he left his soul with the woman he left behind.

“Eldorado Blue” is about a woman who married and settled in her hometown rather than follow her friends to the big city.

“From A Georgia Battlefield” and “Burning Georgia Down” are songs about the Civil War.

“Any Old Road (Will Take You There)” says if you don’t know where you’re going, it doesn’t matter which road you take to get there.

“Jack Diamond” is about a man setting out to kill the people who murdered his family and left him for dead.

“Matthew” is a John Denver song about a man who survived life’s traumas with faith and love.

“Last Train To Kitty Hawk” is about the birth of aviation, the demise of railroads and the changes that progress brings.

And “I Hear The Mountains” is about a man who hears his home calling him back.

A good album for fans with a loose interpretation of bluegrass.

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SIDELINE, “Moves Front & Center,” Mountain Home. 12 tracks

Posted April 2, 2018 by klawrence
Categories: Uncategorized


Sideline began as a recording project for musicians who were working in other bands.

A sideline, if you will.

But in 2013, it became a full-time band –moving front and center, as the new Mountain Home album says in its title.

The lineup for this album includes Steve Dilling, Jason Moore, Skip Cherryholmes, Nathan Aldridge, Troy Boone and Bailey Coe.

The album kicks off with “Thunder Dan,” an uptempo song about a mountain man who kills a preacher, is sentenced to 40 years in prison, shoots a deputy and escapes.

“Frozen In Time” is a ballad about a man who returns to his childhood after 40 years to find it gone — but still standing in his memory.

“Old Time Way” is hoe-down music.

Gordon Lightfoot‘s “Song For A Winter’s Night” finds the singer missing a woman as he settles in for a cold winter night.

“Bluefield WV Mtn. Girl” is about a woman a man can always count on.

“I Long To See His Face” and “Satan’s Chains” are gospel songs.

“Lysander Hayes” is an uptempo song about a man who lives to party — while his mother prays for his soul.

“Memories That We Shared” is a ballad about a man who can’t seem to erase the happy memories that haunt him now.

“Something Out of Nothing” says that no matter how hard you try, you can’t make someone love you.

“All Because of Me” is an uptempo song about a man who kills a woman because she loves someone else.

And “Cotton Eyed Joe” is a blazing instrumental.

The only label you need to put on this album is bluegrass.

Pure and simple.

Look for it on April 27.


STEEP CANYON RANGERS, “Out in the Open,” Ramseur Records. 12 tracks.

Posted January 22, 2018 by klawrence
Categories: Uncategorized

The Steep Canyon Rangers have been making bluegrass-based — but not necessarily bluegrass — music since 2000.

But it wasn’t until 2009, when they first teamed with Steve Martin, that the Rangers began to garner national attention.

In 2013, their album, “Nobody Knows You,” won the Grammy for best bluegrass album.

The Rangers have pushed the bluegrass boundaries with each album.

And “Out in the Open” may well be the best ever.

The first single, “Going Midwest,” is about a man on the move, thanking the woman he left behind for “being kind to a stranger.”

“Farmers and Pharaohs” finds the singer advising others to not let their true loves go the way he did.

The title track is about a man breaking free of the life he was living and deciding to live his life out in the open.

“Can’t Get Home” finds him visiting the house he grew up in, but finding that it’s no longer home.

“When She Was Mine” is about a man who realizes that he never wanted to be free.

“Love Harder” finds the singer deciding not to give up on a long-time relationship and resolving to just love harder.

“Let Me Die in My Footsteps” is a plea for world peace.

Bill Monroe wouldn’t call this album bluegrass.

But he’s been dead for more than 20 years.

And most bluegrass fans today will consider it close enough.

Another strong album from a great band.

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REBEKAH LONG, “Run Away,” LUK Records, 12 tracks

Posted December 4, 2017 by klawrence
Categories: Uncategorized

“Run Away” is only Rebekah Long’s second album on LUK Records.

But the Lincolnton, Georgia, native has been around the bluegrass and gospel circuit for years.

She toured and played upright bass with Little Roy Lewis and Lizzy Long — her twin sister — and also played bass in Valerie Smith & Liberty Pike for a time.

Now, Long is branching out as a solo artist.

She co-wrote nine of the 12 songs on the album with Donna Ulisse.

One she didn’t write is Elton John‘s “Honky Cat,” but Long makes it sound like an original.

The album opens with “Georgia Bound,” a song about heading home to the place where she grew up.

“I’ve Seen The Light,” not to be confused with Hank Williams‘ “I Saw The Light,” is a love song.

“Every Time I Fall Asleep” is about a love that exists only in her dreams.

The title track is about a man who runs away when she tells him she loves him.

“A Place Beyond The Clouds” and “Lay Your Isaac Down” are gospel songs.

The latter is a duet with her late husband, Ben Speer, who died earlier this year.

“My Greatest Shame” is about a woman who has a child out of wedlock and becomes so enraged with the way people in the town treat him that she starts murdering them.

“Fishin’ On The Cumberland” is an uptempo song about the joys of nature and fishing.

“The Swimming Song” is similar, but it’s about swimming.

“Welcome Me Back Home” is about a woman going back home to the man she loves and wishing she’d never left.

“Woodland Street” is about an elderly man, who apparently suffers from dementia, and his wife who go walking every night as she remembers better days.

A good album.

Can’t find it in stores? Try Amazon and other music sites.