Archive for October 2016

THE SAVAGE HEARTS, “Playing It Forward,” Airshow. 11 tracks

October 31, 2016


The Colorado-based Savage Hearts describe their style as “fiery Route 66-flavored honky-tonk & bluegrass where tradition meets innovation with a surprising Latin flair.”

When you read something like that, you’ve just got to check it out for yourself,

The band has cut more than 30 albums and it’s well seasoned.

Leader Annie Savage boasts a background in bluegrass, classical and mariachi music.

And it all blends into a musical style that’s hearty and tasty.

Jim Croce‘s 1969 hit, “Age,” — “I’ve traded love for pennies and I’ve sold my soul for less” — becomes straight bluegrass with The Savage Hearts.

“Compadres in the Old Sierra Madre,” an old Riders in the Sky song, and the salsa beat of Puerto Rican composer Rafael Hernandez Marin‘s “El Cumbanchero” provide the Latin flavor.

Bob Wills‘ “Faded Love” begins as an a capella duet between Savage and Kevin Slick and then turns into an instrumental.

There’s gospel in “Working On A Building/Old Time Religion.”

And original music with Slick’s “Heaven on Earth” and “Child’s Song.”

Several fiddlers join Savage for twin fiddling throughout the album.

Good album by a seasoned band and something you don’t hear every day.

Can’t find it in stores?


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

October 17, 2016


Balsam Range, the quintet named for the North Carolina mountains where band members live, has released five highly acclaimed albums since its formation in 2007.

Make that six.

“Mountain Voodoo,” the band’s latest, hits record bins on Nov. 11.

And it’s as strong as the other five, which helped the band win 10 International Bluegrass Music Association awards in eight years.

“Something ‘Bout That Suitcase” finds the singer wondering about a worn suitcase he sees and what stories it could tell.

“Blue Collar Dreams” is about struggling to make a living and survive in a world that grinds a man down and leaves him struggling with debt.

“Voodoo Doll” finds the singer unable to sleep, missing a woman who may have put a curse on him to torture him with her memory.

“Eldorado Blue” is about a woman who never left her small town because it suits her just fine.

“The Girl From The Highlands” is about a man who leaves the woman he loves behind when he sails for America, promising to send for her when he saves some money. But she dies before he can and he still misses her 20 years later.

“Rise And Shine,” a beautiful song with a gospel feel, advises people to lay their burdens down, put them in the past and get ready for a better day.

“Wish You Were Here” finds a man missing a woman who has died.

Another strong album by one of bluegrass’ best bands.

Can’t find it in stores?




HOLLY NORMAN, “Taking Care of Bluegrass: A Tribute to Elvis,” Freedom Entertainment. 13 tracks.

October 10, 2016

Holly Norman, an East Tennessee native, grew up hearing stories about how her grandfather, Bill Norman, worked in a band with Roy Acuff around Knoxville.

And how Acuff offered him a chance to go to Nashville with him, when he became famous.

But Bill Norman decided to stay home and raise his children.

Now, Holly Norman has made the move her grandfather didn’t.

After years of honing her skills at Dollywood, the East Tennessee theme park, Norman is now working in Music City.

Her latest album, “Taking Care of Bluegrass,” is a tribute to Elvis Presley.

There are 12 Elvis songs and a tribute — “Long Live The King” — written by Norman.

Songs include “CC Rider,” “In The Ghetto,” “Always On My Mind,” “Moody Blue,” “Love Me Tender/Are You Lonesome Tonight,” “Kentucky Rain,” “Little Cabin Home On The Hill,” “Separate Ways,” “Suspicious Minds,” “Viva Las Vegas,” “I’ll Remember You” and the gospel, “Sweet Sweet Spirit.”

James Burton, who led Elivs’ TCB Band from 1969 to 1977, joins Norman on “Kentucky Rain.”

And Terry Blackwood & The Imperials, who recorded with Elvis from 1966 to 1971, join her on “Little Cabin Home On The Hill,” “I’ll Remember You” and “Sweet, Sweet Spirit.”

Norman is backed by a strong lineup of bluegrass musicians — Cody Kilby, Stuart Duncan, Aubrey Haynie,  Rob Ickes, Glen Duncan and Scott Vestal among them.

She has a good voice and the songs all work well in bluegrass.

If you’re an Elvis fan — and a bluegrass fan — this is for you.

Can’t find it in stores?



KENNY & AMANDA SMITH, “Unbound,” Farm Boy Records. 13 tracks

October 3, 2016


Kenny and Amanda Smith were named the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Emerging Artist of the Year in 2003.

And they’ve lived up to those expectations in the 13 years since.

In 2014, Amanda was named female vocalist of the year by the IBMA.

She’s one of bluegrass’ best singers.

Kenny is a two-time IBMA guitar player of the year.

The duo hasn’t been too active professionally for more than a year,

Kenny has been touring with Band of Ruhks.

And Amanda has been taking time off to be with their daughter, Annabelle, who was born in April of 2015.

But they’re back on the road now, promoting their latest album, “Unbound.”

The first single, “You Know That I Would,” is a mother singing to her newborn about how she would do anything to make the child’s life better.

The title track is about a woman facing doubts about following her dreams, but wondering what it would be like to be free.

“Something’s Missing” finds the singer walking through London, seeing all the sights but missing the person most important to her.

“Hills of Logan County” is a Civil War ballad about a soldier who proposes to the woman he loves before going off to war. She turns him down because she’s not ready. But when the war ends and he’s not home, she grieves herself to death.

Kenny sings “Preaching My Own Funeral,” a song that says we preach our funerals every day with our actions.

He also sings lead on “Tea Party,” a song not about politics but about a man changing his life, when he was a daughter.

But it’s Amanda Smith’s vocals that people want to hear.

And she shines on “Unbound” like she always does.

Can’t find it in stores?