Archive for August 2013

LOCUST RIDGE, “Healed,” Rural Rhythm Christian. 13 tracks.

August 26, 2013

Locust Ridge — formerly The Locust Ridge Boys — is a bluegrass gospel band from the town of the same name in eastern Tennessee.

Today, they perform primarily in churches in North Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee.

But with the release of their first album on Rural Rhythm Christian, expect to see Locust Ridge moving into the national bluegrass festival scene at some point.

Members are brothers Russell Allen, Josh Allen and Larry Allen plus Andy Blalock, a close friend.

“Healed,” the new album, features Dale Ann Bradley and Steve Gulley singing harmony. Gulley also produced the album and co-wrote a couple of songs with Russell Allen.

Russell Allen, the group’s primary lead singer, wrote or co-wrote eight of the 13 tracks.

Locust Ridge shows off its vocal chops on the uptempo gospel number, “I’m Glad I’m Saved.”

The album doesn’t stint on either the bluegrass or the gospel.

The sound is definitely bluegrass — and it’s definitely gospel.

“Silver and Gold,” the first single, is an uptempo retelling of the Bible story of Peter healing a crippled man.

“Restoring The Love” says that “All that’s wrong can be made right again.”

The title cut, a ballad, tells of people being healed of various afflictions.

Good album by a good new — at least on the national scene — group.

Can’t find it in stores? Try http://www.amazon.com.

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LORRAINE JORDAN & CAROLINA ROAD, “Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road,” Pinecastle. 12 tracks.

August 19, 2013

Lorraine Jordan, a North Carolina mandolin player, founded Carolina Road in 1998. And 15 years later, the band is among the busiest on the bluegrass circuit.

It performs at an average of 60 bluegrass festivals a year in the United States and Canada.

Carolina Road’s last album, “Back To My Roots,” topped bluegrass charts for two months.

That’s a tough act to follow.

But the new album, which will be released on Sept. 10, has a lot going for it.

Jordan wrote or co-wrote three songs — “Livin’ Like I’m Dying,” “Bluegrass Barn” and “Hold Me One More Time.”

Band members Tommy Long and Josh Goforth wrote “I Saw The Golden Stairs.” Goforth wrote “Suitcase of Your Heart.” and Long wrote “I Heard You Call His Name Last Night.”

Tom T. and Dixie Hall wrote “That’s Kentucky,” a salute to the bluegrass state.

And the band covers “Living With The Shades Pulled Down,” a 1975 western-swing hit for Merle Haggard, and “You Won’t Ever Forget Me,” an Ernest Tubb song from 1969.

The most unusual title on the album is “Song of the French Broad,” a song about a North Carolina river — not a woman.

Good album by a band that specializes in a hard-driving traditional sound.

Can’t find it in stores? Try http://www.CarolinaRoadBand.com.

August 12, 2013

These days, most people probably know the Steep Canyon Rangers as the band that backs Steve Martin in his bluegrass concerts.

But the North Carolina-based quintet has been making good bluegrass since 2001 — eight years before they met Martin.

And earlier this year, they won the bluegrass Grammy on their own for “Nobody Knows You.”

The band had been nominated for a Grammy a year earlier along with Martin for “Rare Bird Alert.”

With that kind of background, you’d expect the Rangers’ latest album, which hits stores on Sept. 10, to feature some outstanding bluegrass.

And you’d be right.

Only you might call it “bluegrass-ish.”

The album was recorded at Levon Helm’s studio in Woodstock, N.Y., and produced by Larry Campbell, who has produced albums for Helm and Bob Dylan.

And with drums on eight tracks, “Tell The Ones I Love” stretches the boundaries of bluegrass.

But it’s still a strong album.

The lyrics are more about poetry than storytelling.

And the album is somewhat reminiscent of early country rock — without the electric instruments.

On “Bluer Words Were Never Spoken,” a train whistle cries for a woman who’s gone. On “Come Dance,” the singer promises to tell a woman “the prettiest lies ever told” if she’s dance with him.

“Boomtown” is a place “where shadows never touch the ground.” On “Lay Myself Down,” he’ll “wear chains like a crown” for her.

“Las Vegas” is a “slice of the American dream, five cherries in a slot machine.”

Band members — primarily Graham Sharp and Charles Humphrey — wrote or co-wrote all 12 tracks.

Mandolin player Mike Guggino wrote the instrumental, “Graveyard Fields.”

Another great album by a great band.

Can’t find it in stores? Try http://www.rounder.com.

CHRIS JONES & THE NIGHT DRIVERS, “Lonely Comes Easy,” Rebel. 13 tracks.

August 6, 2013

Chris Jones got his musical start as an 18-year-old with the New York band, Horse Country.

He went on to hone his bluegrass skills with Dave Evans and Special Consensus before moving to Nashville 25 years ago as a member of Weary Hearts, a band that included Ron Block, Mike Bub and the late Butch Baldassari.

In the mid-1990s, Jones formed the Night Drivers, a band that has been on the verge of moving to bluegrass’ top ranks for years.

He’s a singer, songwriter, guitarist and a host on SiriusXM’s “Bluegrass Junction.”

And “Lonely Comes Easy,” the band’s first album of new material since 2009, showcases the first three skills.

Jones wrote or co-wrote six of the 13 songs on the album.

Night Drivers banjo man Ned Luberecki and mando man Mark Stoffel each contributed an instrumental — “Don’t Blink” and “Swine Flu in Union County” respectively.

There’s an amazing version of “Wake Up, Little Maggie,” a tribute to the late Doc Watson, that’s mostly a capella with Buddy Greene’s harmonica interspersed and the other instruments joining in near the end.

And the band does an outstanding version of C.W. McCall’s 1975 spoken word classic, “Wolf Creek Pass,” about a runaway chicken truck in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains.

Claire Lynch and Sierra Hull perform as the “Wolf Creekettes,” the backing chorus on the song, which features an extended bluegrass jam.

There’s also a great version of Ralph Stanley’s “A Few More Years,” a song about the shortness of life.

A good album packed with a lot of good songs.

Look for it stores on Aug. 27 or online at places like Amazon.com.