Archive for September 2013

JAMES KING, “Three Chords and the Truth,” Rounder. 12 tracks

September 30, 2013

If Ralph Stanley is the “king of mountain soul,” then James King is surely the crown prince.

The man can wring every drop of pain and loneliness from a song.

And there’s plenty of both on “Three Chords and the Truth,” an album that takes its name from the late songwriter Harlan Howard’s classic definition of country music.

All 12 songs are classic country songs done bluegrass style without any of Nashville’s frills.

They range in time from Hank Williams’ 1949 “Devil’s Train” to David Ball’s 2001 “Riding With Private Malone.”

Fans of classic country should love this collection.

It includes a couple of George Jones’ songs — “Things Have Gone To Pieces” and “He Stopped Loving Her Today”; Vern Gosdin’s “Chiseled In Stone”; Cal Smith’s “Jason’s Farm”; Warner Mack’s “Talking To The Wall”; and Don Gibson’s “Blue, Blue Day.”

The collection also includes Vernon Oxford’s “Shadows Of My Mind”; Harlan Howard’s “Sunday Morning Christian” (a song that’s every bit as relevant today as it was in 1971); Billy Joe Shaver‘s “Old Five and Dimers”; and Jim Reeves‘ “Highway To Nowhere.”

They call King “the bluegrass storyteller” and most of these songs tell a story.

King assembled a top notch band for the album as well as a great lineup of songs.

The list of musicians includes Jimmy Mattingly, Josh Williams, Ronnie Stewart, Jesse Brock and Jason Moore. Dudley Connell and Don Rigsby lend their vocal talents, singing harmony.

This is one of the best albums King as recorded. It’s also one of the best albums of the year.

Can’t find it in stores? Try

LOU REID & CAROLINA, “20th Anniversary Concert,” KMA Records. 12 tracks.

September 23, 2013

North Carolina native Lou Reid began his bluegrass journey in the early 1970s with a band called the Bluegrass Buddies. In 1973, he moved to the Atlanta-based Southland.

Reid made it to the big time in 1979 as a founding member of Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver.

From there, he moved to Ricky Skaggs’ country band and then to the Seldom Scene before forming Carolina in 1992.

In 1997, after the death of John Duffey, Reid rejoined the Seldom Scene and has been playing with both bands ever since.

In December, Carolina celebrated its 20th anniversary with a concert at the Down Home in Johnson City, Tenn.

It was recorded and the result is an album that shows Reid and his band at the top of their game.

It’s one of the best bluegrass albums you’ll hear this year.

There are a couple of hits from the band’s past — “Amanda Lynn” and “Time.”

And there are a couple of songs from the Seldom Scene repertoire — – “Lord Have Mercy (On My Soul)” and “Lost In A Memory.”

“Lord Have Mercy (On My Soul)” is done a capella here and it sounds great.

There’s plenty of hard-charging traditional bluegrass — “Grass Lover,” “I Call Your Name,” “Carolina Moonshine Man” and “When It Rains.”

And there are a couple of ballads — “Long Black Veil” and “I Couldn’t Find My Walking Shoes.”

Christy Reid, a member of her husband’s band for more than a decade, sings Carter Stanley’s “She’s More To Be Pitied.”

Fans of Lou Reid & Carolina will definitely want this album in their collection.

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DARIN & BROOKE ALDRIDGE, “Flying,” Organic Records. 10 tracks.

September 9, 2013

If bluegrass is, as Bill Monroe called it, “high lonesome music,” then the music of Darin and Brooke Aldridge isn’t bluegrass.

There is little about lonesome in the songs on their albums.

They’re about love found and rarely lost.

And “Flying” is no exception.

For the most part, these are beautiful songs that push the boundaries of bluegrass.

The record label’s publicity for the album talks about “combining tradition with innovation” and “edgy melodies and song selection meant for a a new and wider audience.”

Some of the songs are acoustic rock. Some are soft bluegrass.

But they’re all good.

“Laurie Stevens,” a new song that sounds old, is the only truly lost love song on the album. And it finds two lovers dying in a flood, one trying to save the other.

Nanci Griffith’s “Outbound Plane” is almost a lost love song. But it still holds hope that love will “fly on its own.”

“Trying to Make Clocks Slow Down,” “Higher Than My Heart,” “Love Does,” “Little Bit of Wonderful,” “To The Moon and Back,” “I Gotta Have Butterflies,” “Love Speak To Me” and “Maybe Just A Little” all deal with the joys of love.

So, if you’re tired of tragedy and lovers that always leave, check this one out.

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Bulgarian Bluegrass Musician researching roots

September 3, 2013

Two decades ago, Liliana Hristova Drumeva was a young economics student in Vienna, Austria.

One night, a friend invited her to a concert featuring an American country/bluegrass band — Emmylou Harris & the Nash Ramblers.

“I saw this beautiful woman playing a big Gibson guitar and singing this beautiful music,” Drumeva recalled recently on a visit to the International Bluegrass Music Museum in Owensboro, Ky. “I bought her album, ‘Live At The Ryman.’ This is like the Bible of bluegrass for me.”

In 1995, Drumeva began singing and playing American country and bluegrass herself. And the following year, she returned home to Sofia, Bulgaria, and formed Lilly of the West — Bulgaria’s first country and bluegrass band.

Today, most people in the industry refer to her as “Lilly of the West.”

The name comes from the title of a 19th-century American folk song that begins, “When first I came to Louisville some pleasure there to find/A damsel fair from Lexington was pleasing my mind/Her cherry cheeks and ruby lips, like arrows pierced my breast/They called her Handsome Mary, the Lily of the West.”

“We all learned bluegrass from scratch,” Drumeva said of her band. “We listened to American tapes. But they were hard to get because Bulgaria was still a Communist country and western music was frowned on.”

Bulgaria is in southeastern Europe — bordered by Romania, Serbia, Macedonia, Greece, Turkey and the Black Sea. Its population is around 7.4 million.

In June, she organized Bulgaria’s first country and bluegrass festival, “Country West Fest,” in Bankya.

“We had about 300 people,” Drumeva said. “It was a little small, but it was great.”

This year, she won a Fulbright scholarship to come to the United States to research the history of bluegrass and country music as well as the music industry.

She’s been researching in Bowling Green at Western Kentucky University’s folklife archives and in Owensboro in the archives of the bluegrass museum.

“This is a bluegrass paradise,” she said. “These archives are so great.”

“Lilly is one of the rare beauties whose music is as gorgeous as she is,” said Gabrielle Gray, the museum’s executive director. “She has everything it takes to succeed in any form of roots music. She’s an extraordinary talent, quite brilliant with a huge heart. She’s the total package.”

Earlier this week, Drumeva visited Bill Monroe’s grave and boyhood home in Rosine.

“There were these huge mosquitoes and grasshoppers,” she said with a laugh. “We were afraid to roll our windows down.”

This fall, she’ll be researching in Nashville.

When she’s finished with her research, Drumeva will write a book on American bluegrass and country music to be published in Bulgaria.

“I am the bluegrass and country music presence in Bulgaria and the Balkans,” Drumeva said. “But bluegrass and country music are both growing across Europe.”

Her repertoire includes country, bluegrass, swing, jazz and folk music. She records primarily in the Czech Republic.