Archive for April 2013

DAILEY & VINCENT, “Brothers of the Highway,” Rounder. 12 tracks.

April 22, 2013

In 2007, two long-time bluegrass sidemen, Jamie Dailey (of Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver) and Darrin Vincent (of Ricky Skaggs’ Kentucky Thunder) decided to hit the road as a duet.

And the awards quickly began piling up.

The International Bluegrass Music Association named them emerging artists of the year in 2008 as well as entertainers of the year and vocal group of the year.

Dailey was named male vocalist of the year and they also picked up album of the year and gospel recorded performance of the year honors in 2008.

They repeated with the entertainer and vocal group honors in 2009 and 2010, picked up the gospel trophy in 2009 and the album trophy again in 2010.

Their last two albums — “Dailey & Vincent Sing the Statler Brothers” and “The Gospel Side of Dailey & Vincent” — both garnered Grammy nominations.

But they weren’t really traditional bluegrass.

“Brothers of the Highway” returns the duo to their roots.

It kicks off with Dailey’s “Steel Drivin’ Man,” a blazing fiddle and banjo-driven song about the men who lay tracks for railroads.

There are a couple of Bill Monroe numbers — “Close By” and “Tomorrow I’ll Be Gone.”

There are a few grassed-up country songs — the Louvin Brothers’ “When I Stop Dreaming,” the title track, originally recorded by George Strait; Porter Wagoner’s “Howdy Neighbor Howdy” and Kathy Mattea’s “Where’ve You Been.”

Dailey’s “Back To Jackson County” and Pete Goble and Leroy Drumm’s “Back To Hancock County” both deal with nostalgia for youth and home.

“It’ll Be Wonderful Over There” is a gospel quartet number with Jeff Parker and Christian Davis.Vince Gill’s “Hills of Caroline” is a ballad about a man who’s had a hard life and wants to be buried beside the woman he loves.

“Big River,” which features Vincent on lead, is a song about a man so sad he’d have to get better to die.

Another great album by a great act.

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THE WILLIAMSON BROTHERS, “Bluegrass!” Flatt Mountain Records. 13 tracks.

April 22, 2013

In an era when many bluegrass acts call their music “acoustic” rather than “bluegrass” and no longer hold their instruments in pictures on album covers, Tony and Gary Williamson call their new album simply “Bluegrass!”

And the album cover is a picture of just the instruments — banjo, mandolin, fiddle, guitar and bass.

You can’t be more clear than that.

This is traditional bluegrass music.

Tony and Gary Williamson have been performing together, off and on, since 1957 when they were kids. That means their duets are honed to perfection.

The new album includes three originals — “First Step of the Journey” and “Song For Jimmy Campbell,” a pair of uptempo instrumentals, and “Over In The Sky,” an uptempo gospel song.

There are traditional numbers — “Green Grow The Lilacs,” “John Hardy,” “The Wreck of the Old 97” and “Lonesome Road Blues.”

There are songs by early bluegrass musicians — Hylo Brown’s “Thunderclouds of Love” and Charlie Monroe’s “Angels Carry Me Home.”

Other songs include “I Miss My Dear Mother and Dad,” “Lamplighting Time in the Valley,” “I Live In The Past” and “Don’t Let Your Sweet Love Die.”

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MIKE AIKEN, “Captains & Cowboys,” Northwind Records. 12 tracks.

April 15, 2013

There was a time, not that long ago, when bluegrass fans had no trouble telling a bluegrass album just by its cover.

Most of the band names ended with “boys.” And there was usually a picture of a banjo, a mandolin and a fiddle on the cover.

Those were dead give-aways.

But these days, band names are changing. Some bluegrass bands don’t even have banjos. And a lot of bluegrass is being marketed as Americana/roots music.

That’s how Mike Aiken’s “Captains & Cowboys” is marketed.

But it’s not bluegrass. Not with drums, electric guitars, pedal steel guitars, pianos, organs and accordions.

Still, a lot of the songs would easily fit into bluegrass with different instrumentation.

“Virginia,” a love song to the state, would definitely fit bluegrass repertoires. So would “Coal Train,” a song about the hills of West Virginia being shipped to China.

“Your Memory Wins,” a song about a memory that’s stronger than whiskey, could easily be a bluegrass song as could “Dance With The Wind,” a song about young love that lasts; “Night Rider’s Lament,” a song about the reason cowboys work for little pay; and the title cut about men who love wide open spaces and freedom.

And Aiken, a former ship’s captain and farrier who wrote or co-wrote nine of the 12 tracks on his sixth studio album, would fit into one of the branches of bluegrass.

But this album is more country than anything.

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MARK NEWTON & STEVE THOMAS, “Reborn,” Pinecastle. 12 tracks.

April 8, 2013

Mark Newton and Steve Thomas each have three decades of bluegrass experience behind them. But they’re new working as a duet this festival season.

Both grew up in Virginia in musical families and both started playing bluegrass as kids.

Newton has worked in the Virginia Squires, the Tony Rice Unit, The Seldom Scene and in various other duet and solo projects through the years.

Thomas’ resume includes tenures with Jim & Jesse and The Virginia Boys, The Lost and Found, The Whites, The Osborne Brothers, Aaron Tippin, Barbara Mandrell, Brooks and Dunn, LeeAnn Womack, Kenny Chesney, John Michael Montgomery, Ronnie Bowman, and Lorrie Morgan.

The new partnership finds them sharing lead singing duties.

“Old McDonald,” the first single off the new “Reborn” album, is an uptempo song about hard times forcing a farmer to sell his land and livestock.

The album, which arrives in stores on April 30, is a blend of old and new songs.

The old include The Delmore Brothers’ “Blue Railroad Train,” the Louvin Brothers’ “Are You Missing Me,” Bill Monroe’s “Kentucky Waltz,” Dallas Frazier’s “If It Ain’t Love” (a 1972 country hit for Connie Smith), Charlie Poole’s “The Girl I Left In Sunny Tennessee” and “Nobody’s Business,” versions of which began in the 1920s blues tradition.

Newer material includes “The Key,” a gospel song; “Painted Lady,” a song about a man wishing he could be a cowboy; Thomas’ “Far Far Cry,” a blazing song about a man who’s lost his job and been jailed since his woman left; “Pineywood Hills,” a song about a homesick rambling man; and “Country Song,” about a song that will bring her back to him.

Good album by a good new duet.

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MARTY RAYBON & FULL CIRCLE, “The Back Forty,” Rural Rhythm. 10 tracks.

April 1, 2013

Marty Raybon cut his teeth on bluegrass music starting in 1974 with his family band, American Bluegrass Express.

So, even though he’s only 53, this is Raybon’s 40th year as a performer.

He moved into country music from 1985 to 1996 with the group Shenandoah and racked up 13 singles that topped the country charts.

After Shenandoah parted ways, Raybon returned to bluegrass and gospel music and quickly became a headliner on the bluegrass circuit.

“The Back Forty,” his latest album, features five songs co-written by Raybon. That’s half of the 10 tracks.

The first single, “That Janie Baker,” which Raybon co-wrote, is a hard-charging salute to a woman who could move mountains.

Raybon’s other numbers include “The Big Burnsville Jail,” another hard-charging song about a man headed to jail and already plotting his escape; “A Little More Sawdust On The Floor,” a ballad that says what the world needs is more sawdust on the floor and more people kicking up their heels; “Only You, Only You,” a ballad that says she’s the only one for him; and “Mountain Love,” a song about a man in love with the girl across the holler.

Other songs include “She’s Just An Old Love Turned Memory,” a 1977 country hit for Charley Pride; and “Slowly (I’m Falling),” a 1954 hit for Webb Pierce.

“Look For Me (For I Will Be There Too)” is a gospel ballad; “The Late Night Cry Of The Whippoorwill” is a high-lonesome song about missing someone; and “Hurt Me All The Time” is an uptempo love song.

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