Archive for August 2016

ADAM STEFFEY, “Here To Stay,” Mountain Home Music. 12 tracks.

August 30, 2016


At 50, Adam Steffey has spent more than half of his life on the bluegrass music trail.

He has been a member of such bands as Alison Krauss & Union Station, The Isaacs and Mountain Heart.

And these days, Steffey is a member of The Boxcars —  the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Instrumental Group Of The Year from 2011 through 2013.

He’s won the IBMA’s mandolin player of the year award an unprecedented 11 times.

But “Here To Stay,” which Steffey surely is, is only his fourth solo album.

It features new recordings of songs that Steffey helped make popular through his years with other bands.

You don’t see Tex Ritter with songwriting credit on many bluegrass albums.

But “Dear John,” which was recorded by Hank Williams in 1951, definitely fits well into bluegrass.

So do the Wilburn Brothers‘ “Town That Never Sleeps” and “Little Liza Jane,” a song that dates to before the Civil War.

Shawn Lane‘s “Mountain Man” tells the story of a man who refuses to sell his land to the government and is willing to fight for it.

“Town That Isn’t There” is about a place destroyed by coal mining.

“Twister (Devil’s Dance)” is about a man watching a tornado destroy his farm.

Instrumentals include “Pitching Wedge,” “Hell Among The Yearlings” and “Come Thou Fount.”

Another good album by a bluegrass master.

Look for it Sept. 23.

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STUART WYRICK, “East Tennessee Sunrise,” Rural Rhythm. 12 tracks.

August 15, 2016


Stuart Wyrick has been playing banjo in bluegrass bands for years with the likes of The Tater Creek Boys, the Better Way Quartet, New Road, Brand New Strings, the Dale Ann Bradley Band and now Flashback, a reunion band of musicians who worked with J.D. Crowe & the New South in the mid-1990s.

Surprisingly, “East Tennessee Sunrise” is his first solo album.

Wyrick is joined by some top musicians here including Kenny Smith, Alan Bibey, Tim Crouch, Phil Leadbetter and Steve Gulley.

He wrote three of the five instrumentals — the title track, “Jennifer Dale Breakdown” and “Riding On The Clouds.”

Dale Ann Bradley provides the vocals on Dolly Parton’s “When Somebody Wants To Leave,” the album’s best track.

The list of guest vocalists includes Gary Kidwell on the Louvin Brothers‘ “Born Again,” Keith Garret on Ernest Tubb‘s “Walking The Floor,” Randall Massengill on “You’re The One,” Keith Williams on “Little Moonshine Johnny,” Steve Gulley on “Hitchhiking To California” and Vic Graves on “The Lord Will Make A Way Somehow.”

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THE WEEPING WILLOWS, “Before Darkness Comes A-Callin’,” 10 tracks, no label

August 8, 2016


Laura Coates and Andy Wrigglesworth, an Australian duo, call themselves The Weeping Willows.

Their sophomore album is called “Before Darkness Comes A-Callin’.”

And the cover art is a picture of the Angel of Death.

So, if you’re expecting a dark album, you’re right.

Theme albums aren’t common in bluegrass or Americana or alt-country or whatever pigeon-hole this album falls into.

But “Darkness” is definitely an album whose theme is, well, darkness.

The Willows say all the songs, at their heart, are love songs.

But light, they are not.

The duo wrote or co-wrote all 10 songs.

“Devil’s Road” is a bluesy tale of despair — “The Devil’s Road gonna steal your soul,” they sing.

“River of Gold,” the first single off the album, is about greed, temptation and surrender.

“Pale Rider” is about the apocalyptic horseman whose name is Death.

“Garden of Tears” is about a man who murders the woman he loves and buries her beneath a rose bush.

“Fallen Ring” is about “a future in misery…until the devil takes you.”

“Valley of Darkness,” a bluesy number, says “in the valley we’re eternally alone.”

But the standout track is a haunting a capella number, “When The Sun Came Down,” which features Sweet Jean (Sime Nugent and Alice Keath) blending their voices with The Willows.

Yes, it’s as dark as midnight on a cloudy night.

But it’s good.

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KRISTIN SCOTT BENSON, “Stringworks,” Mountain Home, 12 tracks

August 1, 2016


Kristin Scott Benson is a four-time winner of the International Bluegrass Music Association’s banjo player of the year and she’s been nominated for three Grammys as a member of the Grascals.

She got her first banjo for Christmas when she was 13 and hasn’t stopped seeking new ways to get the instrument to do new things.

“Stringworks,” her third solo album and first since 2009, features six instrumentals and six vocal numbers.

Benson wrote four of the instrumentals — “Great Waterton,” a rambunctious tune based on her son’s building and destroying the block town from Thomas the Train; “Eagle Eye Annie,” a happy tune named for Opie’s fishing rod on “The Andy Griffith Show”; “Traveler’s Rest,” a slow peaceful tune; and “Fisher,” a tune named for her dog.

Benson always includes a traditional tune on her albums. This time, it’s “Foggy Mountain Top.”

Claire Lynch sings lead on “When Fall Comes To New England,” Chris Jones on “All I Want Is You,” Mickey Harris on “Sink or Swim,” Shawn Lane on “You Gotta Climb Over The Cross,” Terry Eldridge on “Foggy Mountain Top,” (which also features her grandfather singing it on a radio show from the 1940s) and Grant Williams on “Till The Day Breaks.”

A good album.

Hopefully, it won’t be seven years until the next one.

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