Archive for January 2015

BLUE MAFIA, “Pray For Rain,” Pinecastle. 13 tracks

January 26, 2015

Blue Mafia is a fairly new band, formed in 2011 in Muncie, Indiana, by Tony and Dara Wray.

But its members have spent years in other bands before becoming part of the Mafia.

“Pray For Rain,” their second album, goes on sale Feb. 10.

Dara Wray wrote three of the songs — “One Bad Day,” about a man who is one bad day away from prison; “Consider It Goodbye,” about a man who is leaving and a woman who just doesn’t care anymore; and the title track.

There’s a Tom T. and Dixie Hall song, “I Didn’t See It Coming,” about a woman who didn’t expect to lose the man she loves.

There’s a Peter Rowan song, “Moonshiner.”

And there are a couple of Ralph Stanley songs — “East Virginia Blues” and “I’m Lonesome Without You.”

There are a couple of gospel songs — “Had To Be Crippled” and “He’s In Control.”

There’s an instrumental — “Backtrail” — written by Cody Looper, the band’s banjo player.

And there’s a bluegrass version of an old pop song — “Born to Be With You” — that went to No. 5 on the pop charts for The Chordettes in 1956 and became a No. 1 country hit for Sonny James in 1968.

Good album.

Can’t find it in stores? Try

THE FARM HANDS, “Better Than I Deserve,” Pinecastle. 12 tracks

January 19, 2015

These days, it seems like more and more bluegrass bands are calling themselves “acoustic music” groups and moving away from the traditional sounds of bluegrass.

But the Nashville-based Farm Hands quartet still leans heavily toward nostalgic songs with a rural flavor.

“Better Than I Deserve,” the band’s latest album, features a lot of nostalgia for a simpler time with plenty of patriotic and gospel music.

The title track is a (mostly) a capella gospel song, written by Daryl Mosley, the band’s bass player.

He also wrote “The Way That I Was Raised,” an uptempo song about having manners, patriotism and doing what’s right.

Keith Tew, the guitar player, wrote “Mama Prayed and Daddy Plowed,” an uptempo song about religion and hard work.

Bennie Boling, the banjo player, wrote “Farm Country,” an uptempo instrumental, and co-wrote “He’s Got An Answer For Everything,” a gospel ballad.

“The Way it Was in ’51,” one of Merle Haggard‘s lesser known songs, is about the early ’50s, when Lefty Frizzell and Hank Williams topped the country charts and the war in Korea was beginning.

“This Old Gravel Road” is about a man who has traveled the world but finds that the gravel road that leads to his boyhood home is the best place in the world.

Jerry Reed‘s “Talk About the Good Times” is another uptempo nostalgia number.

“From Your Knees” is about a man who has destroyed his home with drinking and cheating.

“Blood on the Moon” is an end-times gospel number.

“Over in the Gloryland” and “Streets of Gold” are traditional gospel songs.

Three of the four band members — Tim Graves, Tew and Mosley — are vocalists, giving the band three lead singers.

Can’t find it in stores? Try

Keith Lawrence, 691-7301,

RALPH STANLEY & FRIENDS, “Man of Constant Sorrow,” Cracker Barrel. 13 tracks.

January 12, 2015

There are few accolades left to bestow on bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley as he approaches his 88th birthday in February.

After a stint in the U.S. Army, Stanley joined his older brother, Carter, to form the Clinch Mountain Boys in 1946.

That means he’s approaching his 69th anniversary in music.

He’s won three Grammy awards, been inducted into the International Bluegrass Hall of Fame and received the National Heritage Award, the Living Legend Award from the Library of Congress and the National Medal of Arts.

But Cracker Barrel records has found a new way to honor Stanley with a new duets album feature Stanley performing with other artists who are long-time fans.

The list includes Robert Plant joining Stanley on the gospel classic, “Two Coats,” and Elvis Costello singing “Red Wicked Wine” with Stanley.

The other artists are from the country and bluegrass side of the music spectrum.

Josh Turner joins Stanley on an outstanding version of “We Shall Rise,” Dirks Bentley lends his vocals to “I Only Exist” and Lee Ann Womack is featured on “White Dove.”

Other artists include Ricky Skaggs on “We’ll Be Sweethearts in Heaven,” Nathan Stanley (Ralph’s grandson) on “Rank Stranger,” Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale on “I Am The Man, Thomas,” Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings on “Pig in a Pen,” Del McCoury on “Brand New Tennessee Waltz” and Old Crow Medicine Show on “Short Life of Trouble.”

Stanley solos on “Hills of Home,” a recitation he wrote about his brother, Carter, who died in 1966 at age 41, and the classic, “Man of Constant Sorrow.”

A great album — one that Stanley fans will definitely want.

Keith Lawrence, 691-7301,