Archive for November 2016

WILDFIRE, “Rented Room on Broadway,” Pinecastle. 12 tracks.

November 28, 2016

Wildfire was formed in 2000, when four former members of J.D. Crowe’s New South began working as the house bluegrass band at Dollywood — Dolly Parton‘s east Tennessee theme park.

After two years there, they hit the bluegrass circuit, playing festivals and concert halls across the country.

Today, band members include Robert Hale, Curt Chapman, Greg Luck, Chris Davis and John Lewis.

All but Chapman are vocalists as well as instrumentalists.

Hale wrote the first track, “Home Again,” about a man who’s been gone too long and finds he doen’t fit in in the city, and “Three,” about a man who finds that there’s about to be an addition to his family.

Most of the songs are bluegrass versions of country and pop hits from years ago.

From the pop charts, there’s The Boxtops‘ 1967 hit, “The Letter”

Country hits include Loretta Lynn‘s “They Don’t Make ‘Em Like My Daddy Anymore” from 1974, Cal Smith‘s “The Ghost of Jim Bob Wilson” from 1976, Mel Street‘s “Small Enough To Crawl” from the 1970s, Keith Whitley‘s “I Get The Picture” from 1985 and “A Bible and A Bus Ticket Home” from Collin Raye in 1994 and Confederate Railroad in 1998.

There’s the gospel of “Driving Nails” and the bluegrass of Carter Stanley‘s “Nobody’s Love Is Like Mine” and Elmer Burchett Jr.’s “Dollar.”

Another good album by a good band.

Look for it in stores on Dec. 9.

Or go to


BLUE MAFIA, “Hanging Tree,” Pinecastle. 12 tracks

November 21, 2016


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

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

“Hanging Tree” is the band’s second release on the Pinecastle label.

The title track is a bluegrass version of a song from “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1.”

Dara Wray wrote three of the tracks — “The Man You Know,” a gospel song that has an a capella intro, “You Belong With Me,” about a woman trying to hang onto a man who’s gone and “Life,” a song filled with nostalgia.

Calib Smith, the band’s banjo player, wrote the opening track, “Like A Mining Man,” a song about miners.

There’s the Bill Monroe classic, “With Body and Soul,” and Carter Stanley‘s “Say Won’t You Be Mine” for traditional fans.

Other songs include “Sweet Mary of the Mountains,” “Baby You’re Gone,” “Midnight Rain,” “Loneliness and Desperation” and “Who Are You.”

Look for it in stores on Dec. 9.

Or go to



MICHAEL & JENNIFER McLAIN, “Hit The Road And Go,” Big Pick Productions. 12 tracks

November 7, 2016


In the 1970s and 1980s, the McLain Family Band seemed to be everywhere in bluegrass.

Michael McLain, the youngest member of the clan, is still carrying on the family name today with his wife, Jennifer.

Their latest album, “Hit The Road and Go,” offers a wide variety of bluegrass styles with a feel for gospel, blues and a little swing.

Jennifer McLain handles most of the vocal work and she has a voice you’ll want to hear over and over.

The album kicks off with Ray Charles‘ “This Old Heart (Is Gonna Rise Again),” which has a gospel feel to it.

There’s Dolly Parton‘s “Do I Ever Cross Your Mind,” Carl Perkins’ “Restless,” Marty Stuart‘s “Busy Bee Cafe” and the Osborne Brothers‘ “Up This Hill and Down.”

There’s the gospel of “Jesus Hold My Hand” and “I’m Ready To Go.”

And a couple of instrumentals — “McIntosh” and “Lady of Spain.”

“Boom Town” is a ballad about a town whose boom has faded and the people are moving on.

Good album by a good band.

Can’t find it in stores?