Archive for July 2013

RON BLOCK, “Walking Song,” Rounder. 14 tracks.

July 22, 2013

Ron Block has been a member of Alison Krauss & Union Station for the past 22 years.

Their success means he doesn’t have to worry about a solo career.

So Block has been releasing solo albums every six years — “Faraway Land” in 2001 and “DoorWay” in 2007.

Now comes “Walking Song,” an album written with a new writing partner, poet/teacher Rebecca Reynolds.

The lyrics on the 11 originals are pure poetry, much of it beautiful.

“Let There Be Beauty” says, “Ten folded child fingers cradle a firefly/Fluttering gold through the cracks, simple and wonder light/Thrumming joy’s melody soft against night’s navy black.”

“Summer’s Lullaby” promises to “wrap you in stories/Chase your dragons away.”

“Jordan, Carry Me” says, “Born to a son of sundown/I have wandered far from home/Low roads I have chosen/And I have walked them all alone.”

“Ivy” says, “I’m a long, long way from West Virginia/chasing dreams through the lonely city lights.”

The other three songs are traditional material — “Devil in the Strawstack,” “Shortenin’ Bread” and “What Wondrous Love Is This?”

As always, Block has put together a “who’s who” of bluegrass musicians backing him.

This time, the list includes Barry Bales, Sam Bush, Stuart Duncan, Sierra Hull, Mike Compton, Dan Tyminski, Rob Ickes, Jerry Douglas, Alison Krauss, Suzanne Cox, and Evelyn Cox.

Another good album by one of bluegrass’ best.

Now we have to wait six years for the next one.

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NU-BLU, “Ten,” Rural Rhythm. 10 tracks

July 15, 2013

North Carolina-based Nu-Blu is celebrating 10 years in bluegrass with a new 10-track album titled — what else? — “Ten.”

The band overcame more adversity in its early years than most see in a lifetime.

Carolyn and Daniel Routh formed Nu-Blu in 2003.

That fall, she suffered two strokes, lost her ability to speak as well as the use of her right side — and almost lost her life.

But Carolyn Routh battled back to become a fine lead singer and bass player.

In 2009, Nu-Blu signed with Pinecastle Records, one of the genre’s most respected labels.

But a few months later, before the band’s new album, “Nights,” could be released, Pinecastle closed its doors.

The Rouths decided to self-release the album and its first single, “Spin on the Red Brick Floor.”

It scored well on several charts and Nu-Blu was named 2010 Country Band of the Year by the Carolina Music Awards.

Then, in September 2010, the Pinecastle label was purchased and reopened. And Nu-Blu was signed to a new contract.

Last fall, they released “Nail By Nail,” a critically acclaimed gospel EP with seven tracks.

Now, Nu-Blu is back with a strong secular album on the Rural Rhythm label.

It kicks off with Carolyn singing lead on “That Road,” a song about life on the bluegrass circuit, missing home and missing the man she loves.

On “Without A Kiss,” a woman says goodbye to her husband who died in a coal mine accident and promises to meet him in heaven.

Levi Austin, who plays guitar and banjo in the band, sings lead on “Eddie’s Garage,” a ballad about a “home-grown slice of Americana.”

Daniel Routh takes the lead on “The Seed,” a song about planting crops and learning life’s lessons from his father.

“All Americans” is a trio number about how Americans are always arguing and fighting among themselves instead of pulling together.

“Giant Squid,” a rather unusual title for a bluegrass tune, is an instrumental written by Austin Koerner, the band’s mandolin player.

Another good album from a good band.

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THE DEADLY GENTLEMEN, “Roll Me, Tumble Me,” Rounder. 10 tracks.

July 8, 2013

The Deadly Gentlemen, then a trio, recorded its first album in 2008. The current five-man lineup solidified in 2011.

And the band has been rising rapidly in the acoustic music scene ever since.

They play the instruments associated with bluegrass — guitar, banjo, fiddle, mandolin and bass.

And they play a lot of bluegrass festivals.

But the Gentlemen’s sound is too eclectic to pigeon-hole.

A look at the members’ histories shows why.

Banjo player Greg Liszt, who has a Ph.D. in molecular biology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, toured with Bruce Springsteen on his “Seeger Sessions” tour.

Mike Barnett, the fiddle player, toured with bluegrass legend Jesse McReynolds when he was 15. He later became a jazz violinist and played with the David Grisman Quintet and the Tony Trischka Band.

Bassist Sam Grisman learned the music from his father, mandolin great David Grisman.

Dominick Leslie, the mandolin player, has performed with banjoist Noam Pikelny and the Infamous Stringdusters.

And guitarist Stash Wyslouch grew up in heavy metal bands.

Now, that’s eclectic.

Liszt wrote all 10 songs on the album.

Three — the title song, “Working” and “It’ll End Too Soon” — appeared on previous albums.

The songs are really poetry set to music.

But whatever the Gentlemen’s sound is, it works.

The band has a huge following.

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ADAM STEFFEY, “New Primitive,” Organic Records. 13 tracks.

July 1, 2013

Adam Steffey’s mandolin has been busy for the last 25 years or more.

He got his big break with the Lonesome River Band in 1987, spent seven-and-a-half years with Alison Krauss & Union Station, then moved on to The Isaacs, Mountain Heart and now The Boxcars, the International Bluegrass Music Association’s emerging artists of the year in 2011 and the instrumental group of the year in both 2011 and 2012.

Steffey has five Grammys and he’s been named mandolin player of the year by the IBMA nine times.

But “New Primative” is only his third solo album.

It blends modern bluegrass and old-time Appalachian mountain music to create something a little different on 13 traditional tunes.

Steffey’s Appalachian roots are deep. His great-grandfather, Tom Carter, was a cousin of country music pioneer A.P. Carter.

The album is primarily instrumentals, featuring the basic bluegrass instruments.

Steffey’s wife, Tina, joins him on banjo.

Eddie Bond, a highly touted old-time fiddler, lends his vocals to “Raleigh and Spencer” and “Big Eyed Rabbit.”

Teen-aged bluegrass fiddler Samantha Snyder sings, “Who Will Sing Me Lullabies.”

The rest is just a picking party with the Steffeys, Zeb Snyder, Barry Bales, Bond and Samantha Snyder.

Songs include “Johnny Don’t Get Drunk,” “Goodbye Girls I’m Going To Boston,” “New Five Cent Piece,” “Cluck Old Hen,” “Chinquapin Hunting,” “Squirrel Hunters,” “Garfield’s Blackberry Blossom,” “Fine Times At Our House,” “Rock The Cradle Joe” and “Ways of the World.”

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