Archive for May 2019

RAY CARDWELL, “Stand On My Own,” Bonfire. 12 tracks

May 28, 2019

Ray Cardwell‘s roots are in bluegrass.

His music career began in the Missouri Ozarks in the late 1970s with the Cardwell Family Band.

In the ’80s, Cardwell worked in bluegrass, Americana, country, jazz, reggae, blues, musical theater, rock, Motown, choral and rockabilly groups.

And it shows.

He moved to Nashville in 1994 as a member of the bluegrass/gospel group New Tradition.

Then, Cardwell took time off to raise a family.

In 2016, he returned to Nashville and bluegrass with an album called “Tennessee Moon,” which was released in 2017.

Now, Cardwell’s second album, “Stand On My Own,” has hit the market.

He wrote nine of the 12 tracks.

“Stand On My Own” falls on the progressive side of bluegrass.

With electric guitars and drums among the instruments, the hard-driving sound is at least a cousin of rock.

Probably the most amazing track is “Change In My Life,” which features Cardwell singing four-part harmony with himself.

He sings lead, tenor, baritone and bass to create a great sound.

“Time to Drive” is a hard-driving song about a man hitting the highway in search of whatever his future holds.

The title track says it’s not that he doesn’t love her, but he needs time alone to learn to stand on his own.

“Sinners & Saints” says those who judge him are as guilty as him.

“Jump Bank Jane” is an uptempo instrumental.

“New Set of Problems” finds the singer tired of his old problems, tired of his job, tired of being broke, tired of his girlfriend and tired of his wife.

“Wedding Bells” is about a man listening to wedding bells ring for the woman he had hoped to marry someday.

“Love Each Other” is a song that says we have to learn to love each other.

Can’t find it in stores?



MERLE MONROE, “Back to the Country,” Pinecastle. 12 tracks.

May 13, 2019

Bluegrass and traditional county music have been drawing closer in recent years.

And that’s been bringing a lot of traditional country fans to bluegrass festivals.

Now, there’s a new band that takes its name from a country music icon and a bluegrass icon.

Merle Monroe says its name and sound are inspired by Merle Haggard and Bill Monroe.

Two of the songs — “Movin’ On” and “Hungry Eyes” — were written by Haggard.

The band was organized by Tim Raybon, formerly of The Raybon Brothers, and Daniel Grindstaff, who’s worked with such legends as Jesse McReynolds and the Osborne Brothers.

Raybon wrote six of the songs on the album.

The first single is Roger Miller‘s “This Town,” a blazing song about a man determined to get out of a town he finds boring and dying.

The title of the album is based on “Back Where It’s At,” a ballad about life being too fast and the singer’s desire to get back to the basics of life.

“Whippoorwill” is an uptempo song about a man missing a woman.

“Beautiful Kentucky” tells the story of a man who left home at 18 and can’t wait to get back there.

There are a couple of gospel numbers — “Beautiful City” and “He Will Roll You Over The Tide.”

“Singing Crazy (Like Patsy Cline)” finds a man wondering how love can be so blind.

“Dad” is a letter written to a father to tell him words his son can’t seem to say.

“I’ll Follow You” is a love song about a man who says he will do anything for the woman he loves.

“The Kindest Man” is about a man who wants to be like his grandfather, a sharecropper who helps everybody with everything he has.

Band members include Jayd Raines, Josh Doss and Derek Deakins.

A good album.

Look for it June 21 on

LARRY STEPHENSON BAND, “30,” Whysper Dream Music. 12 tracks

May 6, 2019

The Larry Stephenson Band is celebrating 30 years with its new album, appropriately titled “30.”

But Stephenson, who began playing mandolin at 5 and cut his first single at 11, has been around a lot longer.

When he graduated from high school in 1976, Stephenson joined his father in a popular regional band in Virginia, playing at The Wheeling Jamboree and other concerts and festivals.

In 1979, Stephenson joined Bill Harrell and The Virginians for 4 ½ years.

In 1983, he went to work with The Bluegrass Cardinals and stayed for 5 ½ years.

And in 1989, he formed his own band and hit the road.

This album is how bluegrass is supposed to sound with clear, sharp tenor singing and great harmony.

Three of the cuts — “Timber, I’m Falling In Love,” “Just When I Needed You Most” and “Sweet Little Miss Blue Eyes” — were on the band’s first album.

“Two Hearts on the Borderline” was on a 2000 album.

“Blue Memories” is a new song as is the album’s first single, “Two Ol’ Country Boys Like Us,” a duet with Ronnie Bowman, who co-wrote it with Stephenson.

Two songs — “Love Lifted Me” (not the gospel song) and “Tears” are from the Osborne Brothers catalog.

“Journey’s End,” co-written by Ernest Tubb, was recorded by the band 25 years ago.

Stephenson’s “I Was Bluegrass (When Bluegrass Wasn’t Cool)” is an uptempo tune about how bluegrass has gained in popularity since he was in high school.

“Darling Little Joe,” a song from the public domain, finds a dying child asking questions about what will happen with his family when he is dead.

Stephenson’s 9-year-old daughter, Whysper, provides a bonus track, singing a few lines from “County Boys” a capella.

A good album.

It’s available at