Archive for June 2012

AUDIE BLAYLOCK & REDLINE, “Hard Country,” Rural Rhythm. 10 tracks.

June 25, 2012

Audie Blaylock’s new album may be called “Hard Country,” but with that strong banjo lead on several tracks, it’s definitely bluegrass.

Blaylock says he chose the “Hard Country” name because “I think it really defines the music on this disc. It still has that hard-driving bluegrass edge, then changes into slower-paced ballad type songs as well, which really show cases the versatility of this band. It also shows just how closely bluegrass and country music are related.”

The kind of country that most radio stations play has moved far away from bluegrass, which has been moving closer to where country music was in the 1950s and ’60s.

Blaylock captures that feel with his version of Ira Louvin’s “Stormy Horizon’s,” a ballad with a classic country sound.

Maybe the country part of the album is the 10 songs featured rather than the 12 or more tracks that bluegrass albums generally feature.

The cover art features a fire motif with both a guitar and a microphone engulfed in flames. And there’s a lot of fiery picking on songs like “A Real Good Way To Lose” and the instrumental, “Newton’s Grove.”

The first single, Harley Allen’s “A Natural Thing,” is an uptempo song about how a person’s life can change in a minute when they meet the right someone.

Blaylock wrote two tracks, “The Chair,” a song about a man who makes a rocking chair for his finance because he can’t afford a wedding ring, and “A Grandmother’s Love,” a ballad about a grandmother whose Bible-reading and prayers are remembered long after her death.

The album includes a mix of uptempo songs and ballads.

Allen’s “Home Is Where The Heart Is” is a ballad about a man who leaves his heart at home when he travels, “14 Days” tells the story of a man who’s been gone for two weeks and is missing the woman he left behind and “On The Road” is about a trucker who longs for a home.

Band members featured on the album include Jesse Brock, Patrick McAvinue, Russ Carson and Jason Moore.

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VARIOUS ARTISTS, “Pa’s Fiddle: Charles Ingalls American Fiddler,” Pa’s Fiddle Recordings. 17 tracks.

June 25, 2012

Fans of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” books will probably enjoy this album of 19th century fiddle tunes mentioned in her autobiographical series.

These are 17 tracks are among the 127 songs that Wilder mentions her father, Charles Ingalls, playing in various books.

Band members include Shad Cobb, Matt Combs, Dennis Crouch, Matt Flinner, Buddy Greene, Bryan Sutton and Jeff Taylor.

It’s obviously not a bluegrass album because bluegrass as a genre wasn’t born until the 1940s. And it features a piano, accordion and pennywhistle.

But if you’re a fan of Wilder’s books or early American fiddle tunes, you might want to check it out.

Songs include “Buffalo Gals,” “Jesus Hold My Hand,” “When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” “Polly Put The Kettle On,” “Mary of the Wild Moor” and “The Campbells Are Coming.”

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LARRY STEPHENSON, “What Really Matters,” Compass. 12 tracks.

June 18, 2012

LARRY STEPHENSON, “What Really Matters,” Compass. 12 tracks.

Larry Stephenson, one of the best tenors in bluegrass, has been making music for a long time. He started playing mandolin at 5, cut his first record at 13 and began touring with his father’s band while he was still in high school.

After high school, Stephenson worked with Cliff Waldron and Leon Morris before joining Bill Harrell & The Virginians in 1979. Four years later, he moved to the Bluegrass Cardinals.

And in 1989, he formed his own band and began making his own music.

“What Really Matters,” the latest in a long series of Stephenson albums,  is a blend of country, gospel and traditional bluegrass.

Kenny Ingram’s banjo gets a workout on Jimmy Martin’s “Bear Tracks.” Sam Bush comes aboard for a retelling of Woody Guthrie’s “Philadelphia Lawyer.” And Stephenson performs a classic country rendition of Loretta Lynn’s 1964 “Before I’m Over You” complete with steel guitar and snare drums.

There’s the gospel of “God Will” and “On The Jericho Road,” the pain of “My Heart Is On The Mend” and “You’re Too Easy To Remember” and the love of “What Really Matters” and “I See Love.”

There’s a solid bluegrass version of Merle Haggard’s “The Seashores of Old Mexico,” a hard-charging version of Ronnie Reno’s “Big Train” and a bluesy version of “The Blues Don’t Care Who’s Got ‘Em.”

A good album by a great musician.

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BOBBY OSBORNE & THE ROCKY TOP X-PRESS, “New Bluegrass & Old Heartaches,” Rural Rhythm. 10 tracks.

June 11, 2012

Bobby Osborne turned 80 in December.

He’s been playing music professionally since he joined the the Miami Valley Playboys in Middletown, Ohio, in 1947.

He’s been a member of the Grand Ole Opry for 48 years and he’s been enshrined (with brother Sonny) in the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Hall of Fame for 18 years.

But Osborne shows no sign of slowing down.

When rotator-cuff surgery in late 2004 forced Sonny Osborne to stop playing the banjo, the last of the great first-generation bluegrass brother acts was history.

But Bobby Osborne formed a new band and hit the road again.

Now, he’s back with a new album, “New Bluegrass & Old Heartaches.”

Some of the new bluegrass is really old, though.

Like Phil Rosenthal’s “Muddy Waters,” a ballad about a flood that takes a family’s home. The song was scheduled to be on the Osborne Brothers’ last album for Decca in the early 1970s but was never released.

Then, there’s “The Last Bridge You’ll Ever Burn,” a song Osborne wrote 40 years and recently rediscovered.

The first single off the album is “I’m Going Back To The Mountain,” an uptempo song about a man who’s had enough of city life and is heading back to his mountain farm.

It’s good bluegrass by one of the genre’s greatest talents.

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THE OKEE DOKEE BROTHERS, “Can You Canoe?: A Mississippi River Adventure Album,” Okee Dokee Music. 15 tracks plus a 40-minute DVD

June 11, 2012

Joe Mailander and Justin Lansing, who grew up as friends in Denver, are pioneers in an emerging musical landscape — songs for children and their families.

Their sound is a blend of bluegrass and folk.

The duo’s latest album, “Can You Canoe?”, is a concept album based on a canoe trip they took down the Mississippi River from Minneapolis to St. Louis in June 2011.

All the songs were composed on the journey.

They’re designed to appeal to children, but many adults will enjoy the fun as well.

The package includes a 40-minute DVD about their trip.

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VARIOUS ARTISTS, “Foggy Mountain Special: A Bluegrass Tribute to Earl Scruggs,” Rounder. 12 tracks.

June 4, 2012

“Foggy Mountain Special” was to have been a tribute to Earl Scruggs while he was living.

But even though the 12 songs on the album were recorded between 2006 and 2008, it still hadn’t been released when Scruggs died on March 28 at age 88.

 And so it became a memorial album as well.

Historians and fans will argue for generations about the exact moment that bluegrass was born.

But many of them will always contend that it was when Bill Monroe added Earl Scruggs’ super-charged banjo to his band in December 1945.

Scruggs’ rolling, three-finger style of banjo picking set the standard for generations of pickers to come.

And “Foggy Mountain Special” gives a dozen of them — Tom Adams, Ron Block, J.D. Crowe, Charlie Cushman, Kenny Ingram, Jim Mills, Joe Mullins, Larry Perkins, Craig Smith, Ron Stewart, David Talbott and Tony Trischka — a chance to show what they learned from the master.

They’re joined by a stellar cast of musicians including Dan Tyminski, Adam Steffey, Randy Kohrs, Cody Kilby, Clay Hess, Wyatt Rice, Ben Isaacs, Barry Bales, Dennis Crouch, Ron Stewart and Jason Carter.

All 12 songs were written by or closely associated with Scruggs including “Foggy Mountain Breakdown,” ” Earl’s Breakdown,” “Flint Hill Special” and “Ground  Speed.”

All 12 songs were recorded by Scruggs and Lester Flatt  and their band, the Foggy Mountain Boys, between 1949 and 1969.

By the way, the band’s name, which lent itself to three instrumentals — “Foggy Mountain Breakdown,” “Foggy Mountain Special” and “Foggy Mountain Rock” — came from the  old Carter Family song, “Foggy Mountain Top.”

A good album with some of the best banjo players alive today.

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