Archive for October 2013

GRACE & TONY, “November,” 11 tracks. Rock Ridge Music.

October 14, 2013

Grace Shultz and Tony White have only been together three years and their sound — a blend of bluegrass, punk, folk and Texas swing — is still evolving.

Shultz’s roots are in bluegrass and Southern gospel.

White comes from a punk rock background. His brother, John Paul White, is a member of the Grammy-winning The Civil Wars.

On “Grassphemy,” the song that bears the name they say defines their music, Shultz and Whtie sing, “It may not play the way it’s supposed to play.” But they add, “We’ll play our song the way we want to play.”

And they wonder, “Just what Bill Monroe would say.”

Monroe, the “father of bluegrass music” who died in 1996, was not a fan of fusing anything with bluegrass. He wanted it to remain a pure sound — the way he heard it.

But for the rest of us, “November,” the couple’s new album on Rock Ridge Music, is definitely worth listening to.

There is, however, very little on the album that sounds like bluegrass. It’s heavy on drums and percussion with lap steel, accordion and a trumpet thrown in for good measure.

But it’s high energy music and they have good voices.

You won’t find any little cabins on the hill or nostalgia for days gone by in these lyrics.

The songs are about evil mastermind kidnappers, electromagnetic bombs, schizophrenia and other things not usually found on bluegrass albums.

But it’s obvious that Shultz and White are having fun.

They’ve played on the sidewalks of Nashville and in tiny halls in their hometown.

But it shouldn’t be long before they’ll be turning up at some of the edgier bluegrass festivals.

Look for the album on Nov. 12.

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DONNA ULISSE, “Showin’ My Roots,” Hadley Music Group. 13 tracks.

October 7, 2013

Donna Ulisse is primarily a bluegrass singer-songwriter. And she’s produced several outstanding albums of her own material.

But “Showin’ My Roots,” primarily an album of cover songs, may just be her best album yet.

It’s not just covers. It’s covers of songs by artists who have inspired her through the years.

And that makes it a concept album.

Ulisse and her husband, Rick Stanley, a cousin of Carter and Ralph Stanley, wrote the opening and closing songs, which serve as book-ends to the collection.

The title song, which opens the album, mentions several of the artists who inspired her. The closing track, “I’ve Always Had A Song I Could Lean On,” tells how music has influenced her life.

“Take This Hammer,” a traditional song sung as a duet with Sam Bush, is a song Ulisse sang as a 3-year-old at a family barbecue.

The Loretta Lynn classic, “Somebody Somewhere (Don’t Know What He’s Missing Tonight)” is a song she sang early in her career.

Lynn was the first artist Ulisse saw perform live. And her “Fist City” is a tribute to that memory.

Other songs include a couple of Stanley Brothers songs — “How Mountain Girls Can Love” and “If That’s The Way You Feel,”; Rodney Crowell’s “One Way Rider”; Dolly Parton’s “In The Good Old Days When Times Were Bad”; Tammy Wynette’s “Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad”; Hank Locklin’s “Send Me The Pillow You Dream On”; “I Hope You Have Learned,” a Bill Monroe song co-written by her uncle, Gene Butler; and the gospel classic, “Wait A Little Longer Please Jesus,” a song her father used to sing.

The band is an all-star lineup featuring Scott Vestal, Rob Ickes, Andy Leftwich, Viktor Krauss and Byron House. Harmony singers include John Cowan, Carl Jackson, Larry Cordle, Larry Stephenson, Frank Solivan, Jerry Salley and Rick Stanley.Great album.

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