Archive for January 2010

RANDY KOHRS, “Quicksand,” Rural Rhythm. 13 tracks.

January 25, 2010

Randy Kohrs’ resophonic guitar has appeared on more than 500 CDs, but he’s a lot more than a sideman.

He’s also a first-class singer-songwriter. He co-wrote five of the songs on this album.

Kohrs’ “I’m Torn” was one of the best albums of 2004. And “Old Photographs” was a strong album in 2007.

“Quicksand” is classified as an acoustic album, rather than bluegrass, because it pushes boundaries.

“Down Around Clarksdale” is a bluesy tribute to bluesman Robert Johnson, who was said to have sold his soul to the devil at a Mississippi crossroads in exchange for magic in his guitar-pickin’ fingers.

Tom T. Hall’s “More About John Henry is a hard-charging song with a gospel edge about the legendary steel-driving man.

The first single, “Devil of the Trail,” is an uptempo tale of pioneers heading west — “along the path to heaven, she passed the gates of hell.”

“Die On the Vine” is about a farmer who turns to whiskey to ease the pain of losing his farm until he remembers his father’s admonition — “don’t let your life die on the vine.”

The title cut warns that chasing money instead of spending time with your family is like stepping into quicksand.

“If You Think It’s Hot Here” is jazzy gospel.

“The Ghost of Jack McCline” is about a ghost that haunts the home of the man who murdered him to steal his land two generations ago.

“Sunday Clothes” finds the singer going to church for the first time in years — to his mother’s funeral.

“Truman’s Vision” tells about the federal government taking the land from an entire community to build a defense plant during the Cold War.

“Quicksand” is a strong album with bluegrass instruments and a cutting-edge feel.

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BILL EMERSON & SWEET DIXIE, “Southern,” Rural Rhythm. 12 tracks.

January 18, 2010

When Bill Emerson & The Sweet Dixie Band released a self-titled album in the fall of 2007, it had the feel of a one-time collaboration.

Fortunately, it wasn’t.

The band’s name has been shortened, but the music just keeps getting better.

Emerson, one of the most influential banjo players this side of Earl Scruggs, has been performing for 55 years now in a career that began with Uncle Bob & the Blue Ridge Partners in 1955.

Two years later, he joined with the late Charlie Waller and others to create The Country Gentlemen, one of the top acts in bluegrass.

In 1959, Emerson 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.

Now, with Sweet Dixie, Emerson is headed back to the top again. And “Southern” is an album fans won’t want to miss.

Tom Adams sings lead on most cuts, but Teri Chism sings lead on three and Wayne Lanham on one. They’re all good vocalists.

The song lineup comes from Tompall Glazer, Chris Hillman, Vince Gill, Alton Delmore, Lionel Cartwright, Hazel Dickens, Carl Jackson, Tim Stafford, Marty Stuart, Pete Gobel, Janet Davis and Adams.

Gill’s “Life in The Old Farm Town” is the poignant story of a farmer’s suicide after his crops burn up in a drought and his farm is lost to foreclosure.

“The Black Fox,” a different type of fox on the run, tells the tale of fox hunters who chase the devil in disguise and then flee in terror.

Most of the album consists of uptempo tunes that make even heartbreak seem like fun.

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