Archive for June 2014

RANDY LANHAM & FRIENDS, “A Fiddler’s Prayer,” no label. 14 tracks

June 30, 2014

Randy Lanham is the music director at the International Bluegrass Music Museum in Owensboro, Ky.

He leads the museum’s “Bluegrass in the Schools” program at 23 elementary schools, teaches the museum’s group lessons, has about 40 private students a year and works with five to six beginning bluegrass bands.

He and his brother, Barry, operate the Lanham Brothers Jamboree at Diamond Lake Resort a few miles out of town.

Lanham won the 1991 Kentucky state fiddle championship, moved to Nashville at age 20 and went on to perform with such country singers as Clay Walker, Wade Hayes, Tracy Lawrence and Tanya Tucker and to tour with George Strait, Brooks & Dunn, Alan Jackson and Faith Hill before he decided to get off the road and come back home.

This summer, he’s releasing his first bluegrass gospel album, “A Fiddler’s Prayer,” which features Lanham’s fiddle along with a group of friends and family, picking and singing.

Two tracks — “How Great Thou Art” with Jenny Beth Willis and Wade Hayes and “I Surrender All” with Blackberry Jam — were recorded live at the Jamboree.

And “Give Me Jesus” with Joe Christian was recorded for a radio show a few years ago.

The rest were done in a recording studio this year.

Lanham performs fiddle solos on “Sweet Hour of Prayer,” “I Heard The Voice of Jesus Say” and the title track, which he wrote.

His daughters — Skylar, Emma and Addie — sing “Jesus Loves Me.”

And four generations of Lanhams — John, Bill, Randy and Skylar — perform “What A Friend We Have In Jesus.”

Wade Haynes sings “The Old Rugged Cross.”

The CD is available for free download at http://highhopesmusic.com/cd-a-fiddlers-prayer/.

People who want an actual copy of the CD can purchase one for $12 on the site.

All proceeds go to charity and Lanham said people who download the CD free can make a donation “if you feel led.”

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I DRAW SLOW, “White Wave Chapel,” Pinecastle. 13 tracks.

June 23, 2014

Siblings Dave and Louise Holden form the heart of this five-piece band from Dublin, Ireland.

They wrote all 13 tracks on the album.

She sings lead and he plays guitar.

The band, which includes Adrian Hart on fiddle, Colin Derham on clawhammer banjo and Konrad Liddy on double bass, was formed in 2008.

Its first American album, “Redhills,” was a big hit with bluegrass fans in 2012.

“White Wave Chapel,” which debuts July 8, should continue the streak.

It’s described as Appalachian roots music with an Irish edge –a blend of alt-country, folk, old-time, bluegrass and Americana.

The lyrics are poetry set to music.

They don’t really tell a story as much as create a mystery — and a beautiful sound.

I Draw Slow is currently touring the United States as part of a world tour that’s taken them to Germany, Denmark and Belgium.

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

THE BROKEN CIRCLE BREAKDOWN, movie 111 minutes, soundtrack 15 songs

June 16, 2014

Quick, name a movie with an all bluegrass soundtrack?

No, not “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou.”

It featured a little bluegrass, but it was mostly a variety of American roots music.

How about “The Broken Circle Breakdown”?

The 2012 Belgian movie, now beginning to become available in this country, features 15 bluegrass tunes performed by a European band in perfect English.

It’s one of the best soundtracks a bluegrass fan could hope for.

The movie is about a banjo player who falls in love with a tattoo artist, who becomes the lead singer in his band.

A very good lead singer at that.

The picker — Didier (writer Johan Heldenbergh) — is obsessed with America and especially American bluegrass.

The movie follows seven years in the couple’s lives, including their daughter Maybelle’s — named for Mother Maybelle Carter — losing battle with cancer and the resulting damage to both Didier and Elise, who renames herself Alabama.

The movie was nominated for an Academy Award for best foreign language film and won several smaller competitions in the United States and Europe.

It’s in Flemish, with English subtitles.

But the songs are in English — and so, for some reason, is the cussing.

Songs include “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” “The Boy Who Wouldn’t Hoe Corn,” “Dusty Mixed Feelings,” “Wayfaring Stranger,” “Rueben’s Train,” “Country In My Genes,” “Further On Up The Road, “Where Are You Heading, Tumbleweed?,” “Over In The Gloryland,” “Cowboy Man,” “If I Needed You,” “Carved Tree Inn,” “Sandmountain,” “Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us” and “Blackberry Blossom.”

The movie is a little dark — but then, so is a lot of bluegrass.

Both the movie and the soundtrack are available at Amazon.com and other outlets.

THE GENTLEMEN OF BLUEGRASS, “Carolina Memories,” Pinecastle. 14 tracks.

June 9, 2014

The Gentlemen of Bluegrass — all five of them — spent years playing bluegrass in other ensembles before forming this North Carolina-based band.

Their sound is similar to the early Country Gentlemen and the Seldom Scene — and that’s intentional.

“Carolina Memories” is an example of both the band’s tight harmonies and its good song selection.

Lorraine Jordan‘s moving “Tribute to John Duffey” is one of the highlights of the album, crafting memories of the man who was an integral part of both the Country Gentlemen and the Seldom Scene.

The album mines the songs of both bands.

There’s the Country Gentlemen’s “Waltz of the Angels,” “Traveling Kind” and “This Morning At Nine.”

The Scene is represented with “Keep Me From Blowing Away.”

Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs are also represented with “Father’s Table Grace” and “Will The Roses Bloom.”

And George Jones’ “Old Old House” was brought into bluegrass by Bill Monroe.

Mac Wiseman‘s “Blue Birds Calling” is also featured.

And there’s a great a capella version of “Amazing Grace.”

New material includes the title cut, written by Jordan; and lead singer Danny Stanley‘s “Big Jim” and “God’s Country.”

Band members include Stanley, Tom Langdon, J.C. Rowland, Greg Penny and Randy Smith.

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

BALSAM RANGE, “Five,” Mountain Home. 13 tracks.

June 2, 2014

Last year, Balsam Range won album of the year honors from the International Bluegrass Music Association for “Papertown.”

And their 2010 album, “Trains I Missed,” won song of the year honors for its title track.

Not a bad pedigree, but it puts pressure on each new release to live up to the past.

So, how does the new album, “Five,” stack up.

Pretty good, actually.

The song selection is strong and the band — Buddy Melton, Caleb Smith, Tim Surrett, Marc Pruett and Darren Nicholson — is still at the top its game.

“Stacking Up Rocks,” an a capella gospel tune, is one of the album’s highlights.

“From A Georgia Battlefield” tells the story of a dying Confederate solider, who’s just 16.

“Songs I’ve Sung” finds a dying man dividing his possession, but what, he wonders, will happen to the songs he’s sung.

“I Spend My Days Below The Ground” is about a man who dreamed of being a doctor but followed his father into the mines to support his family. And now he hopes his son can escape the family tradition.

“Everything That Glitters (Is Not Gold)” is a bluegrass version of Dan Seals’ No. 1 country song from 1986.

“Matthew” is John Denver’s song about a man who lost his farm and his family but found God.

“Too High A Price To Pay” finds a man deciding that what he has to do to try to keep a woman isn’t worth it.

“Don’t Watch These Tears” is about a man who will always love a woman even though she’s found somebody else.

Great album by a great band.