Archive for September 2014

DONNA HUGHES, “From The Heart,” Running Dog Records. 21 tracks. DONNA HUGHES, “Fly,” Running Dog Records. 12 tracks.

September 29, 2014

Donna Hughes, a North Carolina singer-songwriter, has done what few artists have ever done — released two albums in two different genres simultaneously.

“From The Heart” is a bluegrass/country album. “Fly” finds her playing classical piano, backed by a cello, violin and bass.

Several of the songs appear on both albums — done in different styles.

Two songs from the “Heart” album should become instant classics for our times — “Walmart Checkout Line” and “Facebook.”

You can find them both on YouTube.

Neither is a typical bluegrass tune.

But both do what good music should do — comment on our lives and time.

Hughes wrote 19 of the 21 tracks on “Heart” and eight of the 12 on “Fly.’

“The Red Oak Tree” is about a cemetery.

“Gone” is a ballad about the death of a friend.

“Where The Good Daddies Go” is a ballad about a young man missing his father who died in a war when he was born.

Musicians include Scott Vestal, Rob Ickes, Tim Stafford and Greg Luck.

They’re both good albums, but if you’re strictly into bluegrass, “Heart” is the one for you.

If you like all genres, try them both.

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NU-BLU, “All The Way,” Rural Rhythm. 10 tracks.

September 22, 2014

They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

It apparently works that way for the North Carolina-based Nu-Blu.

Carolyn and Daniel Routh formed Nu-Blu in 2003.

That fall, she suffered two strokes, lost her ability to speak as well as the use of her right side — and almost lost her life.

But Carolyn Routh battled back to become a fine lead singer and bass player.

In 2009, Nu-Blu signed with Pinecastle Records.

A few months later, before the band’s new album, “Nights,” could be released, Pinecastle closed its doors.

The Rouths decided to self-release the album and its first single, “Spin on the Red Brick Floor.”

It scored well on several charts and Nu-Blu was named 2010 Country Band of the Year by the Carolina Music Awards.

Then, in September 2010, the Pinecastle label was purchased and reopened. And Nu-Blu was signed to a new contract.

And now, the band’s fifth album, “All The Way,” is out on the Rural Rhythm label.

“With this new project, we are going all the way by stepping outside of genre boundaries and letting our fusion of musical tastes and interpretations guide us like never before,” Carolyn Routh says on the band’s website.

But don’t worry.

It’s still a bluegrass album.

But the big surprise is the album’s first single, “Jesus and Jones,” which features 78-year-old Sam Moore, a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for his years with Dave Prater as Sam & Dave.

The song is more country than bluegrass, which is understandable since its about George Jones and Jesus.

“One man made wine, the other one drank it,” Moore and Carolyn Routh sing. “Either one could bring you to your knees.”

Rhonda Vincent joins Carolyn Routh on “That’s What Makes The Bluegrass Blue,” a ghost story just in time for Halloween. It’s based on a real coal mine disaster in 1939.

There’s also a cover of the 1983 Anne Murray classic, “A Little Good News,” for a world still short on good news.

In “All The Way,” Carolyn Routh sings about domestic violence with a tragic end.

“It’s Not That Cold In Montana,” sung by Daniel Routh, finds a man watching his wife pack to visit her mother, but knowing in his heart that she’s leaving for good.

In “Heavy Cross To Bear,” Carolyn sings about a medic in the war in Afghanistan.

And the band gets to showcase its instrumental talents on J.D. Crowe and Doyle Lawson‘s “Black Jack.”

A good album by a good band.

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STEVE GULLEY, “Family, Friends & Fellowship,” Rural Rhythm Christian. 14 tracks

September 15, 2014

Steve Gulley has been around the block a time or two.

He served a long apprenticeship at Kentucky’s historic Renfro Valley Barn Dance, gained national exposure with Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver and was a founding member of both Mountain Heart and Grasstowne.

Now he works solo or with Dale Ann Bradley.

Gulley’s first gospel album, “Family, Friends & Fellowship,” features not only his fine vocals, but an all-star lineup of friends.

The list includes Lawson, Bradley, Joe Mullins, Rickey Wasson, Kenny & Amanda Smith, Les Butler, Don Gulley (his father), Vic Graves, Linda Gulley (his mother), Debbie Gulley (his wife), Adam Steffey, Tim Stafford, Ron Stewart, Phil Ledbetter, Alan Bibey and a lot more.

Gulley wrote or co-wrote three songs on the album — “Scars In His Hands,” “The Man I Ought To Be” and “What Would You Have Me Do?,” a song about dealing with depression.

Bradley joins Gulley on Jimmy Martin and Paul Williams’ “Stormy Waters” and his father and Lawson join in on Hank Williams’ “House of Gold.”

The best known song on the album is “Jesus Loves Me,” which includes an introduction by Gulley’s 2-year-old grandson, Mark.

The album isn’t purely bluegrass gospel. There’s a lot of country gospel too.

But it’s a strong album by one of bluegrasses best vocalists.

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THE EARLS OF LEICESTER, “The Earls of Leicester,” Rounder. 14 tracks

September 8, 2014

At first glance, you might think this is a British bluegrass band.

But you’d be wrong.

It’s all-star American Flatt & Scruggs tribute band.

Leicester is pronounced “Lester.”

Jerry Douglas, who assembled the band and produced the album, says, “This record is something I’ve been waiting my whole life to do.”

The lineup includes Douglas on Dobro, Shawn Camp on lead vocals and guitar, Charlie Cushman on banjo and guitar, Tim O’Brien on vocals and mandolin, Barry Bales on bass and Johnny Warren (son of Flatt & Scruggs’ fiddler Paul Warren) on fiddle.

The 14 songs — “Big Black Train,” “Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down,” “I’ll Go Stepping Too,” “Dim Lights, Thick Smoke,” “Some Old Day” and “Who Will Sing For Me” among them — are taken from the 1954-65 period.

While the songs are old and the band is playing vintage instruments, the music sounds brand new, with almost a rock energy.

In publicity for the album, Douglas says, “I believe this band has the potential to have its own evolution, beyond just doing Flatt and Scurggs tunes, but this record is very, very exciting for me.”

It will be very, very exciting for most bluegrass fans as well.

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Keith Lawrence, 691-7301,

MIKE SCOTT & FRIENDS, “The Old Country Church,” Rural Rhythm Christian. 13 tracks.

September 2, 2014

Tennessee-native Mike Scott and his banjo have been on the bluegrass circuit since 1972 — when he was 10 years old.

He started with The Rocky Mountain Boys, moved to The Tennessee Four and then The Cumberland Mountain Boys.

In 1980, Scott landed a job with the legendary Carl Story & The Rambling Mountaineers and then went on to work with Jim & Jesse McReynolds & The Virginia Boys.

In 1986, he formed his own band, Mike Scott & The All-American Band. From 1998 to 2004, he also worked with Danny Davis & The Nashville Brass.

For the past decade or more, Scott has worked as both a solo artist and as a member of Ronnie Reno & The Reno Tradition.

The Old Country Church” is his fourth album on the Rural Rhythm label and his second for Rural Rhythm Christian, following 2011’s “Take Me Lord And Use Me.”

Last year, Scott released an album of Civil War era songs, “Home Sweet Home.”

“The Old Country Church” is subtitled “Appalachian Gospel Instrumentals.”

But most of the songs should be familiar to anyone in America today.

The list includes “Will The Circle Be Unbroken,” “I Saw The Light,” “Swing Low Sweet Chariot,” “When The Saints Go Marching In,” “I’ll Fly Away,” “Precious Memories,” “What A Friend We Have In Jesus” and similar songs.

The “friends” include Bryan Sutton, Tim Stafford, Aubrey Haynie, Adam Steffey, Rob Ickes and Ben Isaacs.If you like instrumental bluegrass albums, this is a good one.

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