Archive for September 2010

DARRELL WEBB BAND, “Bloodline,” Rural Rhythm. 12 tracks.

September 27, 2010

Darrell Webb has a bluegrass resume few musicians his age can match.

The 36-year-old West Virginia native started playing mandolin when he was 8 and soon picked up banjo and guitar as well.

When he was 19, Webb joined the Lonesome River Band, replacing Dan Tyminski. Two years later, he was in J.D. Crowe’s New South. Since then, Webb has played guitar in Rhonda Vincent’s Rage and, in 2008, he became lead vocalist and guitarist in Michael Cleveland’s Flamekeeper band.

Now, Webb is on his own, fronting his own band. And Rural Rhythm recently released their debut album, “Bloodline.”

It’s a strong start for a good new band.

Four songs come from country music. Johnnie & Jack’s 1952 hit “Heart Trouble” and Merle Haggard’s “I’m Bringing Home Good News” sound like they were meant to be bluegrass songs.

Webb’s versions of Jerry Lee Lewis’ 1974 hit, “He Can’t Fill My Shoes,” and Conway Twitty’s 1969 No. 1, “To See An Angel Cry,” both sound remarkably like the originals.

The title cut is about a man descended from preachers and moonshiners, who feels the two sides battling within him.

“Kings of Orebank” is a good nostalgic ballad about childhood friends and simpler times.

 “Big Black Train” is a bluesy uptempo song about leaving.

And there are a couple of good gospel tunes that feature strong harmony singing — “Gonna Be Moving” and “If You Don’t Believe The Bible.”

Band members include Jeremy Arrowood, Asa Gravley, Tyler Kirkpatrick and Chris Wade.

Good album by a band worth watching — and listening to.

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Monroe movie eyes Owensboro, Rosine

September 20, 2010

Bessie Lee Mauldin was 17 when she met Bill Monroe in the fall of 1938, back home in North Carolina.

He had just turned 27, was already a singing star with his brother, Charlie, in the Monroe Brothers — and was married.

But three years later, Monroe, by then a member of the Grand Ole Opry, moved Mauldin to Nashville and made her his “road girlfriend,” Richard D. Smith wrote in “Can’t You Hear Me Callin’,” his 2000 biography of “the father of bluegrass music.”

Over the next four decades, Monroe and Mauldin had a turbulent romance that inspired several major bluegrass songs – apparently including “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” Smith wrote.

Now, a Hollywood company is gearing up to film a movie — “Blue Moon of Kentucky” — based on Smith’s book. And the producer, Trevor Jolly, hopes to shoot part of it in Owensboro and Monroe’s hometown of Rosine, he said in an e-mail.

“I’ve read the script,” said Owensboro businessman Terry Woodward, who is vice chairman of the International Bluegrass Music Museum. “It’s a love story about Bill and Bessie Lee.”

And that worries Campbell Mercer, executive director of the Jerusalem Ridge Foundation, which oversees Monroe’s childhood home and farm in Ohio County.

“My concern is that the film not make a mockery of Bill,” Mercer, a keeper of the Monroe flame, said recently. “It’s based on a book by Richard D. Smith. It was a book that needed to be written, but it was written by the wrong guy.”

Mercer would prefer a movie that focused on Monroe’s music, not his infidelities.

But Mauldin is considered to have been Monroe’s muse.

Their child, which she gave up for adoption, according to the book, inspired the song, “My Little Georgia Rose.”

And Mauldin, a bass player with Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys off and on for two decades, played on 99 of Monroe’s recordings.

Reminded that the soundtrack for “Bonnie and Clyde,” the 1967 movie about gangsters Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, contained a lot of bluegrass music and brought a lot of new fans to the genre, Mercer said, “This time I’m afraid Bill is going to be Clyde.”

Still, he says, “there are some awful funny stories about Bill and Bessie Lee out there,” including one about Mauldin wrestling another of Monroe’s girlfriends to the ground in North Carolina.

Maggie Gyllenhaal, 32, who was nominated for an Oscar for her role in last year’s “Crazy Heart,” recently told that she will portray Mauldin in the movie. Her husband, Peter Sarsgaard, 39, is cast as Monroe.

“I talked to Peter on the phone the other day,” Woodward said. “He was in New York taking mandolin lessons. He plays guitar, but he needs to be able to play mandolin for the movie.”

Woodward said: “He’s very enthusiastic about the movie. He said his father was a big bluegrass fan.”

The ScreenCrave story said Joseph Henry “T-Bone” Burnett, who produced the soundtrack for “O Brother, Where Art Thou?,” which sold 8 million copies, and collaborated on “Crazy Heart” will do the music for “Blue Moon.”

Callie Khouri, who wrote “Thelma & Louise,” wrote the script.

Jolly, whose credits include being sound supervisor on “American Beauty” and “The Whole Ten Yards” as well as on episodes of “Lost,” “The Shield” and “Alias,” is producing.

Finn Taylor (“The Darwin Awards,” “Cherish,” “Dream With The Fishes”) will direct.

“Yes, hoping to shoot scenes at Rosine and Owensboro,” Jolly said in an e-mail. “Too early for specifics though.”

Woodward says the movie should be filmed in Kentucky.

Monroe was born — and is buried — in Kentucky. His band and the genre of music he created use the state’s nickname. And his “Blue Moon of Kentucky” is the state’s official bluegrass song.

But Tennessee also wants the movie shot there.

And a battle of incentives is ensuing.

“Finn and them want to make it in Kentucky,” Woodward said, “but the money guys will probably have the final say.”
Mercer said: “I’m sure they’ll use the homeplace” in the movie. “They know it’s open to them. I’ve been putting off getting back in touch with them, but I’ll e-mail Trevor this week. I’ve got to get involved and help them make it good. We’ve got a wealth of information here that should be tapped.”

Thompson describes Mauldin — “The Carolina Songbird” – as “a hefty blond, flashy dresser, strong, spirited and quite earthy.”

Monroe’s wife, Carolyn, finally accused him of adultery and divorced him in 1960.

The divorce decree forbade Monroe from marrying Mauldin as long as Carolyn Monroe lived.

“I don’t know how that was legal,” Mercer said.

Maudlin died Feb. 8, 1983, after suffering a heart attack at 63. Carolyn Monroe outlived her by nearly 18 months, dying on July 31, 1984.

Monroe died on Sept. 9, 1996.

THE LONESOME RIVER BAND, “Still Learning,” Rural Rhythm. 13 tracks.

September 13, 2010

Bluegrass bands are like baseball teams. For many of them, the lineup seems to change almost every season.

And the Lonesome River Band, which celebrates its 30th anniversary next year, has seen plenty of great players come and go through the seasons.

 No one from the original lineup — Tim Austin, Steve Thomas, Rick Williams and Jerry McMillan — has been around for more than a decade.

Of the classic lineup from the early 1990s — Austin, Ronnie Bowman, Dan Tyminski and Sammy Shelor — only Shelor remains.

But even with all the lineup changes, the LRB continues to produce some of the best bluegrass around.

The current lineup — Shelor, Brandon Rickman, Andy Ball, Mike Anglin and Mike Hartgrove — has already made its mark.

Their 2008 album, “No Turning Back,” went to No. 1 on several charts and produced two hits — “Them Blues” and “Like A Train Needs A Track.”

“Still Learning” is a worthy successor to “No Turning Back.”

The album is No. 15 on the Bluegrass Unlimited charts this month and the first single, “Record Time Machine,” a uptempo nostalgia song about an old RCA phonograph, is at No. 26 on the singles chart.

There are a couple of grassed up older country songs — Mel Tillis’ “Goodbye Wheeling” from 1967 and Merle Haggard’s “Red Bandana” from 1979 — and a public domain instrumental, “Pretty Little Girl.”

But most of the songs are pretty new.

Rickman co-wrote three — the title cut, “Forty Days in The Desert” and “As Wild As I Get.”

“Forty Days,” an uptempo gospel number about Jesus confronting Satan in the wilderness, is one of the strongest performances on the album.

By and large, this is an album of uptempo material with songs like “Jack Up The Jail,” a blazing tune about a moonshiner who teaches the trade to his wife before he goes to jail, and “Any Old Time,” a galloping song about a man who’ll come running any time she calls.

Purists, take note: Although the LRB’s music is mostly traditional, there is an electric bass on the album.

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THE STEELDRIVERS, “Reckless,” Rounder Records. 12 tracks.

September 7, 2010

The SteelDrivers roared out of Nashville in 2008 with a sound that’s best described as “outlaw grass.”

The band had a sound that ranged from high-lonesome to low-down blues — often in the same song.

They mixed a rock attitude with some Delta blues, gospel and country, but kept it all within the framework of bluegrass.

High tenor vocals were replaced with Chris Stapleton’s rough-hewn growls and wails.

And the songwriting — primarily Stapleton and bandmate Mike Henderson — told full-blooded tales of hard people and hard times.

Now comes the band’s sophomore effort — “Reckless.”

It’s just as strong as the debut self-titled album.

But it’s the last album with the original lineup.

Stapleton, an accomplished songwriter who co-wrote every song on “Reckless,” left the band in April to devote more time to songwriting and his family.

That makes this album special for fans.

Gary Nichols of Muscle Shoals, Ala., is new lead singer and the band is still strong.

But “Reckless” is the last chance to hear the band’s original sound.

And it’s a great sound.

In “The Reckless Side of Me,” Stapleton sings, “When it comes to takin’ sides and takin’ chances, there’s a part of me that didn’t come to talk.”

“Good Corn Liquor” tells the tale of a sheriff who shot the singer’s daddy beside his still beneath a “blood-red moon.”

“Can You Run” finds a slave on his way to join Mr. Lincoln’s Army.

In “You Put The Hurt On Me,” the singer finds that since the woman he loves has been gone “the dark got twice as deep.”

And “Ghosts of Mississippi” tells of a drunken dream where “the blues came walkin’ like a man,” tuned his guitar and began to wail the blues.

Great album. Great sound.

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