Archive for February 2013

ALAN BIBEY & WAYNE BENSON, “The Mandolin Chronicles,” Pinecastle. 11 tracks.

February 25, 2013

Alan Bibey and Wayne Benson rank among the top mandolin players in bluegrass today. And both have played mandolin with Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out at different times during their careers. Benson still does.

So it’s fitting that the two come together to produce an album of mandolin-lead music.

Four of the 11 tracks feature only their twin mandolin picking.

One of those is “Owensboro Train,” an instrumental co-written by Bibey and Benson that celebrates a train ride that saved the life of Bill Monroe, the “father of bluegrass music,” when he was 10 years old.

Monroe often told the story about how his appendix ruptured in either late1921 or 1922. His family rushed him by train to the hospital in Owensboro, Ky., roughly 45 miles from his home in Rosine.

Surgery that day saved his life, Monroe always said.

Bibey and Benson also co-wrote “Black Friday,” a dark instrumental that was written on the day after Thanksgiving, and “Surfside,” a shuffle named for the town — Surfside Beach, S.C. — where Bibey lives.

Bibey also wrote “Waltz for Pamela,” “Wintergrass” and “Wilkes County Breakdown.”

Only one track –“Another Night” — features vocals, with Moore joining Bibey to sing the ballad about a man missing the woman he loves.

They also included “Pilgrim’s Knob,” a lesser known Bill Monroe tune, and “Now’s The Time,” a tune by jazz legend Charlie “Bird” Parker.

Ron Stewart, Harold Nixon and Wyatt Rice add banjo, fiddle, bass and guitar to seven of the tracks.

Good album for fans of bluegrass instrumentals.

It’s scheduled for a March 12 release.

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ROMP grows beyond bluegrass

February 18, 2013

When it began in 2004, the International Bluegrass Music Museum’s River of Music Party was simply called ROMP. And it featured bands ranging from traditional to progressive bluegrass.

But over the past nine years, the event has evolved into ROMP: Bluegrass Roots & Branches Festival.

“Rather than being a strictly bluegrass festival, it is a festival held strictly in support of the bluegrass museum,” Gabrielle Gray, the museum’s executive director, said last week when she announced this year’s lineup.

Country music legend Merle Haggard will headline the 10th annual festival June 27-29 at Yellow Creek Park near Owenboro. He released a bluegrass album in 2007 and will be doing a mix of country and bluegrass, Gray said.

Past headliners have include Steve Martin, Emmylou Harris and Vince Gill.

Haggard will be joined by two bluegrass legends who are enshrined in the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Hall of Fame — Del McCoury and Doyle Lawson.Sam Bush, “the father of newgrass,” is also scheduled to appear.

The David Grisman Sextet, The SteelDrivers, Della Mae, G2, Town Mountain, Professors of Bluegrass, Goodwill, Spinney Brothers, Kings Highway, Arnold Shultz Revival and the Kentucky BlueGrass AllStars would all be at home at any bluegrass festival.

But recent years have seen ROMP widening its horizons and bringing in bands from the alternative side, bands that fuse several genres and some that have only a nodding relationship with the music of Bill Monroe.

That list includes the Punch Brothers, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Leftover Salmon, The Deadly Gentlemen, Scythian, Lost Bayou Ramblers, David Wax Museum, Ten String Symphony, Renegade String Band and The Giving Tree Band.

Those acts range from old-time to Cajun to jazz to country to Mexican to rock — with a lot of stops in between.

But they all come with a strong fan base of mostly young people who follow them to festivals.

And that’s caused attendance at ROMP to grow from 7,000 in 2010 to 15,000 in 2011 to 21,000 last year — despite triple-digit temperatures on all three days last year.

Gray is expecting another surge this year since ROMP was named “event of the year” by the International Bluegrass Music Association last fall.

Three-day passes went on sale for $90 for 12 hours on Valentine’s Day and 549 were sold to people in 23 states.

The price is now $100 through March 15 when they’ll go up again.

Gray said the festival doesn’t usually hit the 500 mark on ticket sales until May. Most are sold in the final month before the festival begins — or at the gate.

They can be ordered at, which has all the details on the 2013 festival.

FLATT LONESOME, “Flatt Lonesome,” Pisgah Ridge. 11 tracks.

February 11, 2013

Flatt Lonesome is a 2-year-old bluegrass band that grew out of Sandy Creek Revival — a band that featured the Rev. Dolton Robertson, his wife, Lisa, and their three children Kelsi, Buddy and Charli.

In January 2011, the three siblings teamed with Dominic Illingworth, Michael Stockton and Paul Harrigill (who married Kelsi Robertson last fall), to form Flatt Lonesome.

The Robertsons share the singing and Kelsi contributed two songs, “Just Any Moment,” an uptempo gospel number, and “One Foot in the Grave,” a song about an unhappy relationship.

The sibling harmony is one of the band’s strongest aspects.

Songs include Hazel Dickens’, “You’ll Get No More of Me,” a song about a woman kicking out the man who broke her heart; “Does My Ring Burn Your Finger,” a song that questions whether he loves her; “Draggin’ My Heart Around,” a song that finds a woman honky-tonking while her man waits at home; and “On The Right Side,” a gospel song.

There are also a couple of strong covers — “Jackson,” the 1965 June Carter-Johnny Cash classic, and “Boondocks,” a country hit for Little Big Town in 2005.

Good debut album by a good new band.

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RUSSELL MOORE & IIIrd TYME OUT, “Timeless Hits From the Past Bluegrassed,” Cracker Barrel. 12 tracks.

February 4, 2013

This year marks a decade since Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores began marketing their own CDs.

And what better way to celebrate than a new release from Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out, which has been named vocal group of the year seven times by the International Bluegrass Music Association in its 22 years on the road.

Moore is a five-time IBMA male vocalist of the year as well.

The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard bluegrass charts last month.

It’s an album of mostly country hits done bluegrass style.

Sonya Issacs joins the band for “Golden Ring,” the George Jones-Tammy Wynette classic. And Pam Tillis lends her voice to “John and Mary,” a IIIrd Tyme Out hit from 1999.

The country list includes “Gentle On My Mind,” “Modern Day Bonnie And Clyde,” “Take Me Home Country Roads,” “My Window Faces The South,” “Farewell Party,” “Tulsa Time” and “Mama Tried.”

From pop, there’s a bluegrass remake of The Platters’ “Only You,” which IIIrd Tyme Out first covered in 1995.

And from bluegrass, there’s J.D. Crowe & The New South‘s “The Old Home Place” and the Osborne Brothers’ “Big Spike Hammer.”

A good album by a great band.

Can’t find it in stores? Pick one up at a Cracker Barrel restaurant or at