Archive for March 2014

BILL EMERSON & SWEET DIXIE, “Dancin’ Annie,” Rural Rhythm. 12 tracks.

March 24, 2014

Bill Emerson, who turned 76 in January, is one of the most influential banjo players this side of Earl Scruggs.

His career dates back 59 years to a stint with Uncle Bob & the Blue Ridge Partners in 1955.

Two years later, he joined with the late Charlie Waller and others to create The Country Gentlemen, one of the top acts in bluegrass.

In 1959, he began moving around. First, the Stoneman Family. Then, Bill Harrell, Red Allen, Jimmy Martin and Cliff Waldron’s New Shades of Grass.

It was with Waldron in 1968 that Emerson’s banjo turned Manfred Mann’s folk-rock song, “Fox on the Run,” into a bluegrass classic.

He returned to the Gentlemen in 1969 for four years and then began a 20-year career in the U.S. Navy, leading the Navy’s bluegrass band Country Current.

A few years ago, Emerson created Sweet Dixie and hit the road again.

Only one Emerson original — “State Line Ride” — is featured on the new album, “Dancin’ Annie.” But there’s a strong collection of good songs on the album.

Chris Stifel, the band’s guitarist, wrote and sings lead on the title track about a city girl who was happy in the country until the bright lights called her back.

He also sings lead on “Days When You Were Mine,” a song about a man spending years regretting breaking up with the woman he loves.

Teri Chism, the bass player, sings lead on “The Only Wind That Blows,” a song about loneliness that says when he’s away “the night is just a dark place.”

She also sings lead on “Walkin’ After Midnight,” Patsy Cline‘s first major hit in 1957.

Wayne Lanham, the mandolin player, takes over lead vocals on the gospel ballad, “Will A Light Be Shining Bright.”

He also wrote, “Whistle Stop,” an uptempo instrumental on the album.

Another good album by one of the legends of bluegrass.

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JIM & JESSE & THE VIRGINIA BOYS, “Radio Shows,” Rural Rhythm. 24 tracks

March 17, 2014

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Jim & Jesse McReynolds joining Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry. And Rural Rhythm Records is celebrating by re-releasing an album with 24 songs recorded as part of their radio shows on WBAM in Montgomery, Ala., in 1962.

It was first released as an LP in 1978.

At the time of Jim McReynolds’ death on New Year’s Eve 2002, the McReynolds were the longest active professional duet act in country music history.

Jesse McReynolds, who survived a bout with cancer the year his brother died, is still performing today at 84.

Most of the tracks on the album are requests sent in by fans of their radio show — songs like “Foggy Mountain Top,” “Precious Memories,” “There’s More Pretty Girls Than One” and “Sitting On Top Of The World.”

It even includes the Martha White Flour jingle that opened and closed the shows.

The Virginia Boys, at the time of these recordings, were Allen Shelton, Jimmy Buchanan, Don McHan and Dave Southerland.

The McReynolds brothers began performing together in 1947 and landed their first major label recording deal — with Capitol Records — in 1952.

This album offers fans a chance to turn back the clock 52 years and hear the McReynolds brothers — and their band — in their prime.

It also includes online access to a video interview with Jesse McReynolds and photos from his private collection.

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THE HARPER FAMILY BAND, “Through It All,” Pisgah Ridge. 10 tracks.

March 10, 2014

The Harper Family Band, a bluegrass gospel group from the Missouri Ozarks, is blessed with four strong lead singers.

But it’s been going through some hard times and changes since its fifth album, “Through It All,” was recorded.

The band’s website says that Dalton Harper, the 20-year-old guitarist and vocalist, is battling Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

And 19-year-old Dillon Harper, the mandolin player and vocalist, will be enrolling in seminary in April. That takes him and his wife, Makeena, another good vocalist, out of the band’s traveling lineup.

But they’re all together on the new album.

Hannah Harper, the band’s 14-year-old fiddle player, sings lead on the title track, an Andre Crouch song, “The Judgment” and “A Portion of His Love.”

You’d never believe she’s that young from her voice.

There are two original songs on the album — Dalton Harper’s “Child of the King” and Katrina (the mother and bass player) Harper’s “Don’t You Want To Meet Him.” Each sings lead on their song.

Dalton Harper’s lead singing on “In A Moment Just Like This” sounds a bit eerie when you realize his medical problems. The song finds a doctor telling a patient that the news isn’t good, but the patient has practiced faith all his life for “a moment just like this.”

A strong bluegrass album that doesn’t stint on either the bluegrass or the gospel.

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MATT WALLACE, “For A Season,” Pinecastle. 10 tracks.

March 3, 2014

Matt Wallace isn’t a household name yet. But he’s on his way.

He currently plays bass for Mark Newton and Steve Thomas as well as Terry Baucom’s Dukes of Drive.

And he’s already made his mark with such bands as David Parmley & Continental Divide, Audie Blaylock & Redline, Pine Mountain Railroad and Paul Williams & the Victory Trio.

Now Wallace has released his first solo album, “For A Season.”

Although he has a fine voice and does sing lead on five tracks, Wallace brought in Jesse Gregory to cover Norah Jones’ “Creepin’ In” and Maybelle Carter‘s “Lonesome Homesick Blues”; Jerry Cole for “Got Leaving On Her Mind”; Paul Brewster for Neil Diamond’s “Long Gone”; and Wayne Taylor for “Have You Come To Say Goodbye.”

The album’s first single, “Old Man Winter,” is an uptempo song that asks Winter to thaw the frozen heart of the woman who left him even though “it’s colder than the day she said goodbye.”

There’s plenty of gospel on the album too — “Another Mile,” “Mercy Walked In” and “I Want To Know More About My Lord.”

It’s a good album. Hopefully next time, Wallace will trust his own voice and not bring in as may guest vocalists.

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