Palmer Divide. “Shenandoah Train.” no label. 11 tracks.
You may not have heard of Palmer Divide yet, but the 5-year-old Colorado-based quartet is making some great-sounding mostly-original bluegrass these days.
Over the past year, singles such as “Oklahoma Daydreams,” “Red Dirt On My Shoes,” “Somebody’s Playing My Fiddle” and “One More Night” have attracted the attention of bluegrass radio and critics.
Lead singer Jody Adams brings more to the table than a soulful voice. He wrote or co-wrote (with bandmates Mickey Stinnett and Greg Reed) 10 of the tracks on the album. Only one track — Eddy Lee’s “April’s Fool” — is not a band original.
“Whiskey Row” tells about a street of taverns where alcoholics battle for their souls.
The title cut finds a miner resenting the rich man who gets richer from his labor.
“Blackjack Joe” is the tale of a man who is haunted by the memory of the lover he murdered 30 years ago.
“Voices of Home” is about wandering minstrels — and the ones they leave behind.
“All Day Singin’ (and Dinner on the Grounds)” is an uptempo nostalgia piece about a rural church.
“St. Michael’s Stomp” is a lively instrumental.
The band may be only 5 years old, but the members — including Dick Carlson — have been up and down the road a few times with other bands. Palmer Divide is a well-seasoned band making some very good music these days.
Can’t find it in stores? Try www.palmerdivide.com.
Some bluegrass singles worth checking out:
Dale Ann Bradley and the Daughters of Bluegrass’ “I Don’t Think I’m Going Back to Harlan” from their “Bluegrass Bouquet” album on Blue Circle Records. A college-educated woman doesn’t want to return to her mountain mining town in this Tom T. and Dixie Hall song.
Wayne Taylor & Appaloosa’s “Dirt Roads” from their self-titled album on Raincoe Music. Pure nostalgia has been a bluegrass staple for more than 60 years and this is a good addition to that sub-genre.
Kenny Ray Horton’s “A Canary’s Song” from the album of the same name on Fader 4 Records. Miners used canaries to know if there was enough air in a “deep, dark hole where men don’t belong.” Good song.
Stacy Grubb’s “Baby Dear” from her “Hurricane” album, which isn’t on a label. A woman commits suicide as her baby is born. A song with a good sound and more muscle than you’d expect.
Daughters of Bluegrass’ “Leaving Here For Nashville” from their “Bluegrass Bouquet” album on Blue Circle Records. Eight lead singers on one four-minute song sounds confusing, but it makes a great sound.
The Homestead Pickers’ “Ghost Chickens In The Sky” from their “The Homestead Pickers Extra Crispy” album, which isn’t on a label. A parody of “Ghost Riders in the Sky” with chicken sound effects. Yeah, it’ll get old quick, but it’s a lot of fun for a few listens.