Archive for November 2010

LOST & FOUND, “Down on Sawmill Road,” Rebel. 14 tracks.

November 29, 2010

Over the past 37 years, Virginia-based Lost & Found has created a solid niche for itself with its blend of warm, solid bluegrass with a dash of nostalgia and just a hint of folk music.

“Down on Sawmill Road,” part of Rebel Record’s “Vault Masters” series, is a collection of songs recorded by the Lost & Found between 1980 and 2009.

It’s not really a greatest hits collection as much as a fans’ favorites collection of 14 songs.

When you pull together 29 years of music from a band that’s seen a number of changes in its lineup, you get a sampling of a lot of different musicians. But surprisingly, the sound has stayed the same through the years.

Allen Mills, lead singer and bass man, is the only survivor from 1973, when he formed the band with Gene Parker, Dempsey Young and Roger Handy.

Others who have performed with the band through the years include Berry Berrier, Lynwood Lunsford, Ronnie Bowman, Shane Bartley, Greg Luck, Jody King and Ben Green.

Today’s lineup includes Mills, Scottie Sparks, Ronald Smith and Scot Napier.

Songs include “If Today Was The Last Day,” “Leaving You and Mobile Too,” “That’s What Country Folks Do,” “The Rabbit Song,” “Sawmill Road,” “Sweet Rosie By The River,” “A Daisy A Day,” “Sun’s Gonna Shine In My Back Door Someday,” “Peace In The Valley,” “Log Cabin In The Lane,” “The Man Who Wrote Home Sweet Home,” “Johnston’s Grocery Store,” “Maple On The Hill” and “Don’t Wait Too Late.”

Good collection from a great band.

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DONNA HUGHES, “Hellos, Goodbyes & Butterflies,” Rounder. 15 tracks.

November 22, 2010

Donna Hughes comes from the singer-songwriter side of bluegrass.

She’s written more than 300 songs, including “My Poor Old Heart,” recorded by Alison Krauss & Union Station, and “Sad Old Train,” recorded by the Seldom Scene.

“Hellos, Goodbyes & Butterflies” doesn’t really sound like the title of a bluegrass album. But it definitely is.
Bluegrass lyrics have moved closer to mainstream country in recent years.  The instrumentation is the biggest difference these days.

“Cut Your Losses” says now it’s her turn to walk away and his turn to cry.

“Nothing Easy” says he’s easy to love, but she’s not finding something she needs.

“Saying Hello” finds her dead father sending her messages in butterflies, nickels and the wind.

“Dr. Jekyl, Mr. Hyde” is about a man with two personalities — and she’s leaving both of them behind.

“Butterfly” says that butterflies are lucky because they can fly away from problems.

“Jesse” is about a singer who hits the big time, fades away and then makes headlines a final time with his suicide.

“Mid-Life Crisis” finds a woman calling her husband’s lover to deliver this message — “I was his true love, you were his mid-life crisis.”

“Autumn Leaves” says that when we die, the world will keep on turning.

“Blackbeard” is about the life and times of a pirate.

And “Better Apart” finds her doing them both a favor by leaving the relationship behind.

The album was produced by J. D. Crowe and features such musicians as Barry Bales, Rob Ickes, Adam Steffey, Randy Kohrs, Buddy Cannon, Melonie Cannon, Bryan Sutton, Scott Vestal and Aubrey Haynie.

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Steve Martin to headline ROMP

November 18, 2010

Steve Martin — yes, that Steve Martin — will headline the International Bluegrass Music Museum’s eighth annual River of Music Party next summer at Yellow Creek Park.

“It’s extremely exciting,” Gabrielle Gray, the museum’s executive director, said Wednesday. “It’s going to be an amazing event. He’s going to draw a lot of people.”

But she said Martin won’t be the only big name next year.

“When people hear that Steve Martin is going to be at ROMP,” she said, “they say, ‘Really?’ We’re going to have several ‘Really?’ bands. It’s going to be big.”

Martin, who’s best known as a comedian and actor, won this year’s Grammy for best bluegrass album for his 2009 album, “The Crow: New Songs For The Five-String Banjo.”

It was his second Grammy for music — to go along with two for comedy albums. In 2002, Martin shared the Grammy for best country instrumental with Earl Scruggs and others for “Foggy Mountain Breakdown.”

He will be backed by the North Carolina-based Steep Canyon Rangers, an 11-year-old group that formed after a stairwell jam session at the University of North Carolina.

The Rangers were named emerging artist of the year by the International Bluegrass Music Association in 2006.

Gray said the June 23-25 festival will see a major change from past years.

“For the first time, ROMP will feature the roots of bluegrass — acts representing the many cultural influences from whence bluegrass came — and the branches of bluegrass — the worldwide bluegrass community, including progressive and jam bands,” she said.

The Carolina Chocolate Drops, a 5-year-old North Carolina-based band, is part of both the roots and branches of bluegrass.

The three young musicians have revived the black string-band tradition that began in the 18th century but nearly died out in the late 20th century.

Bluegrass bands — and audiences — are primarily white. But more blacks have been coming into the music in recent years.

“We will always be a bastion of traditional bluegrass music,” Gray said. “But we’re going to be much more youth oriented this year and in the future. In the past, we’ve focused on traditional music and haven’t covered the full scope of bluegrass.”

The museum is adding a second bluegrass festival at the RiverPark Center in September 2011 to coincide with the centennial of the birth of Bill Monroe, the “father of bluegrass music.”

The museum’s Pioneers’ Gathering, an event that features musicians from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, and the Blue Grass Boys Reunion, with former members of Monroe’s band, will move from ROMP to the September festival in 2011, Gray said.

That festival, which is scheduled for Sept. 12-14, will feature “a full line-up of traditional bluegrass artists,” she said.
Another change planned for 2011 is a rain site for ROMP.

In the past, crowds have sometimes sat in the rain during performances. But if thunderstorms with lightning rolled in, acts were often canceled.

Gray said she couldn’t say yet where the rain site will be. But if rain is likely, the festival will be able to move indoors, she said.

LOU REID & CAROLINA, “Sounds Like Heaven To Me,” Rural Rhythm. 14 tracks.

November 15, 2010

Lou Reid is one of the busiest people in bluegrass music. He not only fronts his own band, Lou Reid & Carolina, he also plays mandolin and sings tenor with The Seldom Scene.

His background is just as varied. In 1979, after nearly a decade with regional bands, Reid was a founding member of Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver.

He moved from there to Ricky Skaggs’ band and then to The Seldom Scene. Finally, after working with Vince Gill and Vern Gosdin for awhile in country music, Reid joined with Terry Baucom in 1992 to form Lou Reid, Terry Baucom and Carolina.

Baucom left and the band shortened its name.

 Then, in 1996, when John Duffey died, Reid returned to fill his spot in The Seldom Scene. For the past 14 years, he’s worked in both bands.

After all these years, Reid has finally recorded his first bluegrass gospel album, “Sounds Like Heaven To Me.” And it’s definitely worth the wait.

 “God’s Front Porch,” the first single, pictures heaven as a place with rocking chairs and old dogs.

There are ballads — “Daddy Tried,” about a preacher who couldn’t save the world, but he tried; “Sunday’s Best,” about the funeral of a man who died with whiskey on his breath; and “Mama,” a song about a mother’s prayers.

But it’s primarily an album of uptempo songs including the hard-charging “Missionary Good Book Man” along with “John In The Jordan,” “Pick It Up” and “Over In The Promised Land.”

There are even a couple of a capella numbers — “It’s Hard To Stumble (When You’re Down On Your Knees)” and “Lord Have Mercy (On My Soul).”

Christy Reid sings lead on two songs, “Carry Me” and “Sweet By and By.”

One of the best bluegrass gospel albums of 2010.

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BALSAM RANGE, “Trains I Missed,” Mountain Home Music. 12 tracks

November 8, 2010

“Trains I Missed,” the third album in the last four years by this North Carolina-based band, should make several “Ten Best” lists this year.

The band melds country, gospel, bluegrass and old English ballads into a sound that is both traditional and contemporary.

 Having four lead singers — and two writers on this project — shows the band’s depth.

The title cut is about a man who has made mistakes, but has finally found his way in life.

Caleb Smith, the band’s guitarist, wrote and sings lead on “The Touch,” a great new gospel song. He also sings lead on “Hard Price To Pay,” a tale of a moonshiner wasting away in prison.

“Gonna Be Movin’ ” features a strong gospel quartet sound with Tim Surrett, the bass player, singing lead.

“Meanwhile,” which features mandolin player Darren Nicholson on lead, is a good ballad about a woman out on the town and a man sitting home and missing her.

Buddy Melton, the fiddle player, sings lead on “On The Run,” an uptempo song about a man who murders his cheating wife and her lover.

Marc Pruett, the banjo player, wrote “Heart That Won’t Stop Lovin’ You.”

A strong album by a band that just keeps getting better.

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RODNEY DILLARD & THE DILLARD BAND, “I Wish Life Was Like Mayberry,” Rural Rhythm. 19 tracks.

November 1, 2010

On March 18, 1963, America got its first look at The Darling Family on the popular “Andy Griffith Show.”

The musical hillbillies only made six appearances on the show over four seasons — plus the 1986 reunion movie, “Return to Mayberry.”

But nearly 50 years later, America still remembers The Dillards more for their portrayal of the Darling Boys than for their ground-breaking bluegrass music.

In 2009, the International Bluegrass Music Association inducted The Dillards into its Hall of Fame at the International Bluegrass Music Museum in Owensboro, Ky.

The Dillards “were a driving force in modernizing and popularizing the sound of bluegrass in the 1960s and ’70s,” the IBMA says on its website, “blazing a trail on the 1960s West Coast music scene for progressive bluegrass bands.”

The band began as The Dillard Brothers in 1958, with Rodney Dillard on guitar and Douglas Dillard on banjo. Dean Webb later joined on mandolin and Mitch Jayne on bass.

In 1962, The Dillards hit the road for Los Angeles with $300 in their pockets, stopping to work in Oklahoma along the way.

Once in Los Angeles, the band was signed almost immediately by Elektra Records. Then, a DesiLu Studios representative saw an ad in Variety magazine about Elektra signing the Dillards. A few days later, they were called in to audition for the role of The Darlings on “The Andy Griffith Show.”

The IBMA says repeated airings of those six episodes over the past 47 years make The Dillards “the most often seen bluegrass artists on television, thanks to reruns.”

So, it’s hardly surprising that Rodney Dillard has gone back to Mayberry for an album that’s sure to be a favorite of the thousands of fans who still watch the reruns on television.

Newer songs include “The Darlin’ Boys,” an tribute to the characters the band played on the show; “There Goes The Neighborhood,” a humorous look at urban sprawl and rural life; “Wicker Rocking Chair,” a song about finding happiness in simpler things; “The Mayberry Hat,” a ballad about a hat that evokes memories of better times; and “The Andy Griffith Show Song,” a ballad that suggests that America would be better if it was more like Mayberry.

Older material includes songs the band sang on “The Andy Griffith Show”: “There Is A Time” (which was sung on three different episodes), “Dooley,” “Salty Dog Blues,” “Banjo In The Hollow” and “Leaning On The Everlasting Arms.”

There are also six one-minute “Mayberry Minutes,” which Rodney Dillard recorded for radio over a three-year period.

“Wet Shoes In The Sunset” is an interesting piece that’s somewhat out of place. It’s an orchestral version of some of The Darlings “missing tracks.”

“I Wish Life Was Like Mayberry” is a definite must for fans of “The Andy Griffith Show.” And it would make a good Christmas gift for fans of The Dillards as well.

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