Archive for November 2013

THE GRASCALS, “When I Get My Pay,” Mountain Home. 13 tracks.

November 25, 2013

The Grascals have racked up three Grammy nominations and a lot of bluegrass hits since 2005.

And “When I Get My Pay,” their eighth album, which was just released on the Mountain Home label, shows that the band isn’t yet resting on its laurels.

Harley Allen’s “Two Boys On A Dirt Road,” the story of two childhood friends slowly drifting apart, is reminiscent of his “Me and John and Paul,” the Grascals’ first big hit from eight years ago.

Country star Dierks Bentley joins the band on “American Pickers,” a tribute to the History Channel reality series.

The album is a good blend of ballads and uptempo songs, like the title cut about working hard every day and making too little money to pay the bills.

“Are You Up For Getting Down Tonight” is a ballad about going out to dance the blues away.

“Bluegrass Melodies,” an old Osborne Brothers song, sounds eerily like the Osbornes. But that’s because lead singers Jamie Johnson and Terry Eldredge are big Osborne Brothers fans — and Eldredge and Terry Smith are former members of the Osbornes’ band.

“When Your Rock Turns to Stone” is about a woman whose love has turned to ice because her man treated her wrong.

“Silver Strands” is a ballad about a couple who fell in love in their teens and are still in love 50 years later.

Good album by a great bluegrass band.

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JOHN McCUTCHEON, “22 Days,” Appalsongs. 13 tracks.

November 18, 2013

This isn’t bluegrass. It’s folk music.

But a couple of bluegrass musicans — Tim O’Brien on fiddle and mandolin and Stuart Duncan on fiddle — are featured.

And a few of the songs could be called “bluegrassish.”

John McCutheon has produced 36 albums in the past 40 years.

All but two of the songs on “22 Days” were written in a 22-day period last year.

But the title also pays homage to Vedran Smailovic, “the cellist of Sarajevo,” who played his cello for 22 consecutive days at the site where 22 people were killed in a mortar attack on a bakery during the Balkan War in 1992.

McCutheon wrote an instrumental — “Adagio in AM” — in honor of Smailovic.

“Forgotten” is about Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teen who was targeted by the Taliban for her support of education for girls.

“Fitzgerald” tells about a Georgia town where Union and Confederate veterans worked side by side to rebuild the economy. And then marched side by side in their old uniforms on Thanksgiving.

“Of An Age” finds McCutcheon celebrating life in his 60s where “each day is a gift.”

“Heaven’s Kitchen,” of the grassier songs, celebrates heaven as a place filled with fiddle music and Southern cooking.

“Tonight,” another grassish song, finds a former miner about to blow up a mountain to protest mountain top removal.

“Dry Land Fish,” described as a “hillbilly sea shanty,” is an a capella song about hunting for mushrooms.

Good album Good songs.

Even if it’s not bluegrass, it’s worth checking out.

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UNSPOKEN TRADITION, “Simple Little Town,” no label. 10 tracks.

November 11, 2013

Unspoken Tradition, a North Carolina band, was formed in 2008 by Audie McGinnis, Zane McGinnis and Lee Shuford.

Recently, they added Tim Gardner, Ty Gilpin and Matt Warren to the lineup and recorded their first album for national release.

Without a label, Unspoken Tradition decided to release it independently.

And “Simple Little Town” is starting to garner some attention for the band.

Band members wrote seven of the 10 songs on the album.

The others come from a wide range of influences — Carter Stanley‘s “I’m Lost, I’ll Never Find The Way,” the alt rock group Cake‘s “Stickshifts and Safetybelts” and Standing Ground’s “Carolina Rain.”

The title track suggests that a couple move away from the fast pace of the city and settle in a “Simple Little Town.”

“Mr. President” is a hard-driving song, a farmer’s lament about hard times where the rich keep getting richer and the poor will soon be gone.

“Time Marches On” traces the good times and the bad in a family, beginning in 1973.

“Blood and Bone” finds a farmer working until his hands are worn out to support his family.

And “Rebel’s Shame” is about a soldier who ran away during a battle returning to the scene 40 years later.

Good album by good new group.

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NEWTOWN, “Time Machine,” Pisgah Ridge. 10 tracks.

November 4, 2013

Kati Penn-Williams started playing the fiddle when she was 10. By the time she was 12, she was playing and singing with the Young Acoustic All-Stars, a band of teen-aged musicians.

Later, she became a member of the New Coon Creek Girls and continued through its transformation into the Dale Ann Bradley Band.

For the past few years, she’s headed NewTown, a Lexington, Ky.-based band, with her husband, Junior Williams.

They’re both good singers, giving the band more strength.

The band’s latest release, “Time Machine,” is getting some well-deserved attention that could put the band on the national stage, where it belongs.

C.J. Cain, NewTown’s guitar player, wrote six of the 10 songs.

“Thin Red Line” is a World War II ballad sung by Junior Williams about the war in the Pacific.

“The Widow’s Ghost”, sung by Penn-Williams, is a song about a Civil War widow who defends her land to the death — and beyond.

And “Goodbye Mary Jane,” sung by Williams, is the tale of a boat handed down from father to son for three generations. The title comes from the dying father’s last trip on the boat.

Guy Clark’s “Dublin Blues,” sung by Penn-Williams, is a great addition to the album. It’s a song about regrets and trying to forget someone who’s gone.

There’s also a strong uptempto gospel song — “All My Tears (Be Washed Away)” — sung by Penn-Williams.

Good album by a good band.

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