Archive for January 2012

DARRELL SCOTT, “Long Ride Home,” Full Light Records. 16 tracks.

January 30, 2012

Darrell Scott is one of those artists who refuses to be pigeonholed.

Sometimes he’s in bluegrass. Sometimes he’s in country.

Sometimes he’s in rock.

And sometimes, he’s a poet, setting his words to music.

“Long Ride Home” is an ode to his lifelong love of country music.

“From silver-haired Daddy to Momma’s hungry eyes, I was baptized in country music,” Scott writes in the liner notes.

There’s no bluegrass on the album.

But many of Scott’s songs eventually find their way into bluegrass.

Patty Loveless’ version of his “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” was nominated for song of the year by the International Bluegrass Music Association in 2002.

A couple of the songs — “The Country Boy” and “You’re Everything I Wanted Love To Be” — are more than 30 years old, written by Scott and his father, Wayne, when Scott was 16.

Wayne Scott performs a duet with his son on “The Country Boy” and Guy Clark sings with him on “Out In The Parking Lot,” a song they wrote together.

Scott has a way with lyrics that make his songs sparkle.

On “It Must Be Sunday,” he sings of a day so lonesome that “even Jesus couldn’t help me today.”

On “No Use Living For Today,” Scott sings, “Well, today was once tomorrow and today’s tomorrow’s yesterday/There’s no use living for today.”

And on “You’re Everything I Wanted Love to Be,” he sings, “There’s an emptiness when you live your life alone/I’m so glad my lonely days and nights are gone.”

If you’re looking for something different in country music, it’s a good album.

It’s a shame it’s not bluegrass though.

Can’t find it in stores?


GARRET MATHEWS, “Folks Are Talking,” no label. 33 tracks.

January 16, 2012

“Folks Are Talking” isn’t a bluegrass album. And Garret Mathews isn’t a musician.

What it is is a double CD with Mathews, a retired newspaper columnist, reading 28 of the columns and feature stories he wrote for the Bluefield (W. Va.) Daily Telegraph between 1974 and 1979.

And interspersed among the columns and stories are six bluegrass/folk songs, two written by Mathews’ wife, MaryAnne.

Songs include the traditional “Camp In The Wilderness,” “Boil Them Cabbage Down,” “Shady Grove,” “Wayfaring Stranger” and MaryAnne Mathews’ “Route 52 Blues” and “Mountaineers Will Always Be Free.”

Mathews’ stories are mostly about older people who have now been dead for decades.

They include an early UMW organizer, a horse trader, survivors of coal mine explosions, coal camp baseball players, a girl born during the flood of 1977, a cockfighter and a female furrier “who carves muskrats while eating peanut-butter sandwiches.”

Between the music and the stories, the album makes for a great visit to way of life that’s almost come and gone in Appalachia.

Can’t find it in stores? Try

BILL EMERSON & SWEET DIXIE, “The Touch of Time,” Rural Rhythm. 12 tracks.

January 9, 2012

Bill Emerson hasn’t always been around.

It just seems like it.

Emerson, who turns 74 this month, stands with Earl Scruggs, Don Reno and a handful of others as one of the most influential banjo players in bluegrass.

His 57-year career began with Uncle Bob & the Blue Ridge Partners in 1955.

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

In 1959, he 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.

In 2007, Waldron formed Sweet Dixie and began yet another successful run in bluegrass.

“The Touch of Time” takes its name from a song by Chris Stifel, the band’s guitar player, that looks at the aging process. “As we get older, we glance over our shoulder and feel the touch of time,” it says.

It’s mostly an uptempo album, even on the sad songs.

“My Baby Thinks He’s A Train,” a No. 1 country hit for Rosanne Cash in 1981, is the first single off the album. Bass player Teri Chism, one of the band’s three lead signers, makes the song her own.

Emerson wrote three of the banjo tunes on the album — “These Ones,” “Electric Avenue” and “Home Sweet Dixie Home,” the latter with Bill Evans, who joins him for a banjo duet on the album.

There are a couple of gospel songs — “The Rope” and “Last Night I Was There”; a couple of hurting songs — “Today I Turned Your Picture To The Wall” and “Love Gone Cold”; a love song — Dolly Parton’s “You’re The Highlight Of My Life”; and a traditional song, “Little Pink.”

Good album by a bluegrass legend who just keeps getting better.

Look for it in stores Jan. 31 or try

Favorite bands returning to ROMP

January 3, 2012

Three of the most popular bands at last year’s ROMP: Bluegrass Roots & Branches Festival will return this year.

The Carolina Chocolate Drops, a black string band, was the most popular act at the festival, according to a survey of 998 people who attended.

Gabrielle Gray, executive director of the International Bluegrass Music Museum, said the Chocolate Drops will return for the June 28-30 festival, along with The Punch Brothers featuring Chris Thile, which ranked third on the survey, and the Louisville-based 23 String Band, which placed fourth.

ROMP, a fundraiser for the museum, is held at Yellow Creek Park in Thruston.

“We have offers out to several more acts,” Gray said. “But it’s a great lineup already.”

Last year’s festival, headlined by Steve Martin & the Steep Canyon Rangers and Emmylou Harris, drew more than 15,000 fans from at least 42 states, plus Argentina, Australia, Canada, China, England, Japan and The Netherlands.

The festival was easily the largest of the 27 bluegrass festivals Owensboro has had since 1985.

It was 44 percent larger than the previous record of 9,500 total tickets sold for the International Bluegrass Music Association Fan Fest at English Park in 1995.

ROMP books both traditional and progressive bluegrass bands as well as roots music performers who aren’t really bluegrass artists.

New for this year in the roots and branches category are St. Louis-based Pokey LaFarge & the South City Three, who mix early jazz, string ragtime, country,  blues and western swing, and Snap Jackson & the Knock on Wood Players, an acoustic quartet from Stockton, Calif., which performs Americana, bluegrass, soul and old time music.

Other acts on the 2012 lineup include Town Mountain, Monroeville, The Expedition Show, The Farewell Drifters, Katie Penn & NewTown, Don Stanley & Middle Creek, NewFound Road, Higher Ground, Renegade String Band and Grandview Junction.