Archive for July 2019

MARA LEVINE, “Facets of Folk,” MBL. 13 tracks

July 22, 2019

Mara Levine‘s “Facets of Folk” isn’t bluegrass.

It’s, like the title says, folk music.

But the first track, “You Reap What You Sow,” features Rob Ickes, Mark Schatz, Andy Leftwich, Scott Vestal and other bluegrass musicians.

And it spent 22 weeks on Bluegrass Today’s Grassicana chart.

Leftwich and Schatz also played on “Daughters and Sons,” a song that says those who suffered for freedom will see their dreams come true in their children.

“Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye” is a love song about differences developing between two people.”

“Tree of Life” is about women who are known by the quilts they have made for others.

“A Perfect Rose” says she would rather have rows of imperfect flowers than a single perfect rose.

“Be The Change” says someone — Rosa Parks, Jesus — has to be the catalyst for social justice.

“By My Silence” is based on German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller’s 1946 work about the cowardice of German intellectuals and some clergy during Hitler’s rise to power.

“Taladh Chriosda,” a holiday song from the Scottish Hebrides, is a love song from a mother to a son.

“Child of Mine” tells a child that he or she has “the hopes the world is waiting for.”

“Upstream” is about salmon who fight their way upstream each year to mate and alludes to the struggles of people.

“The Moment Slipped Away” says we need to encourage each other every day and not let “the moment slip away.”

“Bitter Green” is Gordon Lightfoot‘s song about a woman who waited long years for her lover to return, but was dead by the time he did.

“Song for the Asking” says she will share her music if people will only ask.

Good album.

Look for it at and

ALI SHUMATE, “Every Bit of Me,” Hadley Music Group. 13 tracks

July 15, 2019

Alice “Ali” Shumate may be a new name to a lot of bluegrass fans, but she’s been active in the music for years in regional bands on the East Coast.

She’s also been classically trained in piano and woodwinds and performed in church choirs and as a church pianist through the years.

Now, Shumate has a new album, “Every Bit of Me,” on Donna Ulisse‘s Hadley Music Group label.

She wrote or co-wrote all 13 tracks.

“Jezebel,” the first single off the album, is an uptempo song about a woman who’s trying to take her man — reminiscent of Dolly Parton‘s “Jolene” or Loretta Lynn‘s “You Ain’t Woman Enough To Take My Man.”

“Long As I Got That Man of Mine” is similar.

The title track is about the emotions Shumate felt when her son, Wyatt, was born.

“Each Lesson That I Learned” is from her time as a hospice nurse, learning the lessons of life and death from her patients.

“Loving How You Love Me” is written for her husband.

“I’ll Dance Forever With You” is a tribute to her aunt and uncle who danced through more than 50 years of marriage.

“In My Dreams” is about a woman who can only be with the man she loves when she’s dreaming.

“How The Secret’s Found” says that life is good, when you look for the good in life.

“I’m Cold to the Bone” is about a woman who knows that her man is about to leave her.

There’s a lot of gospel too — “I’m Gonna Catch A Cloud,” “Mama’s Bible,” “I’m Ready Right Now” and “Surrender  Hallelujah.”

Look for it on and similar sites.


THE STEEL WHEELS, “Over The Trees,” Big Ring Records. 11 tracks

July 8, 2019

The Steel Wheels, based in Harrisonburg, Virginia, doesn’t call itself a bluegrass band.

It  uses the words “Americana roots.”

They’re a high-energy band with amazing harmonies and beautiful music.

But traditional bluegrass fans should be aware of the piano, keyboards and drums mixed in with the fiddle, banjo, guitar, mandolin and bass.

Trent Wagler, the band’s lead vocalist, banjo and guitar player, wrote or co-wrote all 11 tracks.

He has said that “Over The Trees,” the band’s seventh album, is somewhat experimental.

“This Year,” a song that predicts peace and love for the new year, is a beautiful a capella number.

“Rains Come,” a song about climate change, has almost an echo chamber sound.

“Get To Work” says that no matter what’s happening in your life you have to shake it off and get on with life.

“Time To Rest” takes the opposite approach, saying that there’s a time when you just need to rest.

Good album by a good band.

Just don’t expect traditional bluegrass.

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CHAIN STATION, “Backroads,” 11 tracks

July 1, 2019

Chain Station is a nine-year-old, four-piece progressive bluegrass band based in Denver.

“Backroads,” the band’s third studio album, is filled with uptempo tunes.

The title track is about a man whose past has been bittersweet and after seeing extreme highs and lows, he’s chosen to spend his time on the back roads of life.

There’s a lot of mountain imagery, like the mountain tops where the “Wild Wild Wind” blows.

“Gravity” and “Mother Nature” are songs about the forces of the universe.

“Devil’s Juice” is about a family of moonshiners.

“Midwest Girl” finds a man moving west to look for love, but finding that what he really wants is a girl from the Midwest with a gypsy soul.

“Half Full” is about a man who feels rich because of the friends he has made.

“Bluegrass Babes” is a salute to the young women who dance in the crowds at bluegrass festivals.

“Hot Damn” is an off-beat song about a man who is hungry all the time.

“Now and Again” says that sometimes you’ll find the answers you’re seeking.

And “Spooky Ridge” is an intricate instrumental.

Can’t find it in stores?