Archive for December 2012

THE GRASS CATS, “The Mountains, My Baby and Me,” New Time Records. 13 tracks.

December 24, 2012

The North Carolina-based Grass Cats recently celebrated their 15th anniversary as a bluegrass band.

And their eighth album for the New Time label, “The Mountains, My Baby and Me,” shows the maturity of the band with tight harmonies and solid picking.

The album was No. 11 on the Bluegrass Unlimited album charts in December and the title cut was No. 20 on the magazine’s singles charts — up from No. 30 the month before.

The band continues to mine songs from other genres that it can turn into solid bluegrass — songs like Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind,” The Embers’ “What You Do To Me,” Bruce Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart” and Eric Clapton’s “I Can’t Stand It.”

But there’s also a lot of original music.

Lead singer Russell Johnson wrote or co-wrote seven of the songs, including the title cut about a man who has to travel to make a living, but longs for time with just the mountains and her.

“Life in the Mines” is a ballad that warns against a life of digging coal.

“Off and Gone” finds the singer going through another night of missing the woman who left him.

“Love With A Lifetime Guarantee” is about a man having trouble convincing a woman that his love for her will last a lifetime.

“Meet Me In Heaven” is an uptempo gospel song with four-part harmony.

“Turning Point” finds a man facing a choice between the bottle and the Bible.

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BO ISAAC & THE ROUNDERS, “Dollar,” Out of the Woods, 13 tracks

December 24, 2012

Bo Isaac is a 29-year-old eastern Kentucky native who says he was raised on the music of the bluegrass masters.

And his new album, “Dollar,” sure sounds like he absorbed a lot of what he was hearing.

Elmer Burchett Jr., a respected bluegrass singer and songrwriter, wrote or co-wrote 11 of the tracks.

The others are both from the public domain — “John Henry” and “Nobody’s Business.”

The title cut, which features an old-time sound, finds the singer wondering where his money and his woman went while he was working two jobs.

“Flat Footin’, Tennessee” is a dance tune.

“A Whisper Away” is a gospel song performed as a duet with Haley Burchett.

“Whippoorwill” is about a woman who left her footprint on his heart.

“Miner’s Cry” tells the story of a cave-in that killed 29 miners.

“Lee County Line” is about a man who married a moonshiner’s daughter and inherited her grandfather’s recipe.

“Road To Summertown” is nostalgia for skinny dipping and blackberry picking.

Good album.

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DETOUR, “A Better Place,” Bluegrass Ahead. 14 tracks.

December 17, 2012

I don’t know about you, but it’s been years since I’ve been able to think about Jackie DeShannon’s “Put A Little Love In Your Heart” without hearing Bill Murray’s version in “Scrooged,” which has become a Christmas staple on cable.

Detour does a good job of grassing up the 1968 pop hit, but I’m still hearing the “Scrooged” cast in the background.

The Michigan-based band features mostly originals in “A Better Place” with eight of the 14 tracks written by mandolin player Jeff Rose and one — “Lovin’ Liza Jane” — written by lead singer Melissa “Missy” Armstrong.

The first single, “Quarterline Road,” is a nostalgic song about home.

“Homeless of the Brave” is a ballad about veterans who can’t find jobs in the country they fought for — “the richest land on earth.”

“A Better Place” is ballad about searching for a place where pain is gone and the sun always shines.

Loretta Lynn’s “Everybody Wants To Go To Heaven” is a bluesy gospel number.

On “Everything Is Nothing As It Seems,” Armstrong sings about always falling for someone who is falling for someone else.

“I’ve Just Seen The Rock Of Ages” is an uptempo gospel number about a dying woman.

Good album.

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DARRELL WEBB BAND, “Breaking Down The Barriers,” Rural Rhythm. 11 tracks.

December 10, 2012

If you like a bluegrass-country mix with a lot of meat in the lyrics, “Breaking Down The Barriers” is an album you’ll want to check out.

Darrell Webb honed his skills playing with J.D. Crowe & The New South, Lonesome River Band and Wildfire before forming his own band a couple of years ago.

He was definitely ready for the move.

“Pistol and Pen,” the first video from the album, is a musical suicide note from a man who has lost everything important to him. The video had the support of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

But that’s just one of the strong songs on the album.

“Goodbye To The Sun” is a protest song about the way miners — and the land — are treated.

“False Idols” is a song about the heroes of pop culture and the people who worship them.

“This Old Town” is about coming home after several years to find a number of changes.

“Always Leave ’em Smilin’ (When You’re Gone)” is a song about 1,500 people turning out for the funeral of an old black man who always did what the title says.

“Beckett’s Back 40 Acres” tells the story of an old farmer who secretly grows “what he shouldn’t” and prospers while his neighbors go through hard times.

The only cover of a previous hit record is “Prisoner Of  The Highway,” a 1984 hit for Ronnie Milsap.

This could be the album that takes Webb to the next level.

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AMERICAN DRIVE, “American Drive,” Rural Rhythm. 12 tracks.

December 3, 2012

American Drive may be a new name on the bluegrass scene, but its members aren’t.

When legendary banjo master J.D. Crowe decided to retire from the road, his band, The New South, decided to stick together and become American Drive.

Rickey Wasson, Dwight McCall, Matt DeSpain and Kyle Perkins are carrying on the tradition. Justin Jenkins fills the banjo slot on this album, but he’s since been replaced by Josh Hymer in the band.

The first single, “Long Haul Trucking Man,” an uptempo ode to a man addicted to the road, was written by McCall.

“Willow Creek Dam” tells the story of a dam that will soon flood the singer’s home.

“War Is Hell” tells the story of a man who can’t shake the memories of war. They’ve cost him his wife and kids, but not his whiskey.

“Too Late To Settle Down” finds a man wondering if the woman he loves will take him back.

“Cowboys Still Act Like Cowboys” is a countryesque ballad about cowboys and honky tonks.

“Nobody’s Child” is about a boy in an orphanage.

“Resting Place” and “From Where I Stand” are gospel songs.

Good solid bluegrass from a band that learned it from a master.

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