Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

BALSAM RANGE, “Aeonic,” Mountain Home. 11 tracks

December 10, 2018

North Carolina-based Balsam Range has been one of the top bands in bluegrass since its inception in 2007.

Tim Surrett, Buddy Melton, Caleb Smith, Marc Pruett and Darren Nicholson have won a host of awards from the International Bluegrass Music Association over the years, including entertainer of the year in both 2014 and 2018

The new album, “Aeonic,” a Greek word for a long period of time, is bookended by “The Girl Who Invented The Wheel.” a song about a woman who will leave town quickly if you disappoint her, and a hard-driving bluegrass version of  The Beatles‘ “If I Needed Someone.”

There are lot of songs about traveling, sorrow and things lost.

“Tumbleweed Town” finds a drifter, who’s crossed the line too many times, searching for the man he hopes to be.

“The Rambler” is about a man who’s both free and trapped by his lifestyle — “The Lord made the rambler. The devil taught him to ride.”

“Get Me Gone” finds a man waiting for dawn so he can leave town and the woman he loves.

“Hobo Blues” is about a man who’s lived a hard life and finds that it’s not getting better.

“Help Me To Hold On” is about people who have almost reached the end of their rope.

With all that despair, the uptempo gospel of “Let My Life Be A Light” comes as a ray of hope.

And then, it’s back to hard times.

“My Cross To Bear” is about a man with blood on his hands that can’t be washed away, trying to escape the crime he committed.

“Graveyard Blues” finds a man at the grave of his wife and child.

“Angel Too Soon” is about a girl who has died — ” a pretty flower that never bloomed.”

A good, but a little dark, album by a great band.

It goes on sale Jan. 4.

You can find it at


RAY EDWARDS, “A Golden Anniversary Celebration,” Pinecastle. 12 tracks.

December 3, 2018

Ray Edwards has spent 51 years in bluegrass and country music,  starting as a 13-year-old banjo player.

His career has included stints with the High Country Boys, Southbound, Jeanie C. Riley’s Red River Symphony, Tom T Hall’s Storytellers and Ed Bruce’s Tennessee Cowboy Band. He’s also worked with Randy Travis, Sammy Kershaw, Lynn Anderson and Cliff Waldron & the New Shades of Grass.

Among the hits Edwards has written are “Hard Rock Mountain Prison” and “Carolina Moonshine Man.”

His latest album, “A Golden Anniversary Celebration,” includes material from several stops along his life’s journey.

Edwards is joined on the album by a number of musicians and vocalists.

Singers lending their talents to the album include Junior Sisk, Will Jones, Tim Terry, Ronnie McCranie, Danny Paisley, Bradley Walker, Steven Dowdy and Daniel Salyer.

Edwards sings lead on four tracks.

He wrote or co-wrote six of the songs, including, “The Life of a Mountain Man,” “Wanda Lou,” “West Virginia Songbird,” “The Cold Hard Facts of Love,” “The Matewan Train” and “Out of the Blue.”

You can find the album at, and a lot of other sites.


THE KING JAMES BOYS, “Time To Go Home,” Pinecastle. 11 tracks

November 26, 2018

Bluegrass gospel is almost as old as bluegrass itself.

Music historians say bluegrass was born in 1946 when Bill Monroe went into the recording studio with Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs.

Although gospel music has always been part of bluegrass, it evolved into a subgenre of its own in the late 1940s with the work of Carl Story, who’s known as “the father of bluegrass gospel.”

Most bands these days do a combination of secular and gospel bluegrass.

But the King James Boys, founded in 1994, are an “all gospel bluegrass band that blends southern gospel harmonies with modern bluegrass sounds,” according to their website.

Their first album with Pinecastle — “Time To Go Home — is true to that description.

It covers the range of music from hard-driving bluegrass to gospel ballads.

Band members Randy Spencer, Cole Spencer, Milom Williams II, Curtis Lewis and Jeff Dover are joined on the album by Glenn Crain on Dobro and Ben Rochester on fiddle.

The blazing “The Master Standing By” kicks off the album.

Ron Block‘s “He’s Holding Onto Me” says the singer isn’t holding onto Jesus. Jesus is holding onto him.

“Was Nots” says God is coming to take His children home.

“Sign of the Times” says the end days are upon us.

The title track says Jesus is coming soon,

“That’s Love,” a ballad, says that love means sacrifice.

You can find the album at

THE FARM HANDS, “Good Things,” Pinecastle.13 tracks

November 19, 2018

The Farm Hands — Tim Graves, Daryl Mosley, Keith Tew and Don Hill — have been together since 2010.

They’ve garnered a lot of awards during the past eight years.

And the new album, “Good Things,” is a good example of why they’ve done so well.

It’s filled with good songs — eight of them band originals.

“Hillbilly Graham,” the first track, tells the story of a mountain preacher, who isn’t as concerned about his appearance as he is about reaching sinners.

“Good Things” is about the lessons of taking care of your neighbor, treating others with kindness and other “good things.”

“Thank You, God” finds a man looking at his new baby and thanking God for the blessing of fatherhood.

“Long Way to Virginia” is the story of a man hitchhiking his way home and wishing he’d never left the woman who loved him.

“Draining The Swamp” and Don Reno’s “Dixie Breakdown” are instrumentals.

“Daddy’s Shoes” finds a little boy trying on his Daddy’s boots and later as a grown man, knowing that he hasn’t grown into the them yet.

“Southern Sunday Morning” is about families gathering in church on Sunday mornings.

“I’d Write You” is a song about love, with the singer telling a woman that if he was a poet, he’d write her, and if he was a painter, he’d paint her.

“Please Don’t Tell Me Goodbye” finds the singer begging his lover not to leave him after all they’ve been through together.

“What Am I Living For” and “Still The Solid Rock” are bluegrass gospel.

And there’s a bonus track of Jimmy Dean‘s ode to his mother — “IOU.”

Good album by a good band.

You can find it at

TURNING GROUND, “Old Country Store,” Bonfire. 13 tracks

November 12, 2018

Turning Ground,Salyersville, Kentucky, band has been together for seven years.

And it’s starting to attract national attention with “Old Country Store,” its new album on Bonfire.

Lead singer Nathan Arnett wrote eight of the 13 songs, including the title track — a nostalgic ballad about a store and community gathering place that closed years ago.

Covers include Carter Stanley‘s “The Lonesome River,” Waylon Jennings‘ “Waymore Blues” and Merle Haggard‘s “The Longer You Wait.”

The first track, “Barbed Wire & Roses,” is a hard-driving song about a love that’s causing too much pain.

“I’ve Lived A Good Life” is a ballad about an old man who’s dying and looking back over his life.

“Don’t Tell Me I’ve Gone Crazy” is a hard-driving song about a man who’s working overtime in a mine and trying to take care of his kids after his wife left them.

“Sadie” is an uptempo song about a woman who’ll spend a night with you, but no more.

“Old Kentucky Shine” tells the story of a family that’s been making moonshine for five generations without getting caught.

“I’m Gonna Wear A  Crown” is a gospel ballad.

“Bluegrass” finds the singer admitting that he’ll never be one of the greats of bluegrass, “but I still love that lonesome sound.”

“Let The Big Wheels Roll” tells the story of a man who caught his wife cheating and left town in a hurry with a secret that doesn’t surface until the end of the song.

“Will Heal Over Time” is about a man in an empty house hoping he’ll heal one day at a time.

A good, mostly traditional, bluegrass album.

You can find it on Amazon and other music sites

JD CROWE & RICKY WASSON, “Hats off To Haggard,” Truegrass Entertainment. 12 tracks. 

November 5, 2018

If you’re a fan of the late Merle Haggard and bluegrass music, this is an album you’ll want to have.

In 2016, J.D. Crowe and Ricky Wasson, former lead singer in Crowe’s New South, went into the studio with Steve Chandler to record a tribute album to Merle Haggard.

“Of all the recordings I’ve done through the years, this project is one of my all-time favorites because of my favorite singer, songwriter, musician and best of all friend, Merle Haggard,” Crowe writes in the liner notes.

Mark Fain, Harry Stinson, Dan Tyminski and Stuart Duncan came aboard to pick and Tyminski, Alison Krauss and Suzanne Cox joined on background vocals.

Haggard even contributed lead vocals on “Living With The Shades Pulled Down.”

According to the liner notes, they finished mixing the last track, “When My Last Song Is Sung,” at 1:06 a.m. on April 6, 2016.

Haggard died at his home in California a few hours later.

A somewhat eerie coincidence.

Wasson sounds close enough to Haggard to make the tribute sound close to the original.

And the music is definitely bluegrass.

Songs include “Always On A Mountain When I Fall,” “Big City,” “Hungry Eyes,” “Ramblin’ Fever,” “I Wonder Where I’ll Find You At Tonight” (a lesser known song from 1985); “California Cotton Fields,” “Daddy Frank,” “Old Man From The Mountain,” “Kentucky Gambler,” “Living With The Shades Pulled Down,” “Farmer’s Daughter” and “When My Last Song Is Sung.”

Look for it at



ROLAND WHITE AND FRIENDS, “A Tribute to the Kentucky Colonels,” Mountain Home. 12 tracks.

October 29, 2018

Roland White is 80 now, still active in bluegrass, but looking back on a long career.

The Kentucky Colonels, a band that featured Roland on mandolin and his brother, Clarence, on guitar, was formed in Burbank, California, in 1954.

Music historians say Clarence was largely responsible for making the guitar a lead instrument in bluegrass.

The Colonels released two albums — “The New Sound of Bluegrass America” and “Appalachian Swing !” in the early 1960s.

In late 1965, the Colonels disbanded, but had two short-lived reunions in 1966 and 1973.

Roland became one of Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys in 1967 and later was a  member of Lester Flatt’s Nashville Grass, the New Kentucky Colonels, Country Gazette, the Nashville Bluegrass Band and now, the Roland White Band.

In 2017, he was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Hall of Fame. Clarence White had been inducted the year before.

Friends helping out on this waltz down memory lane include Brooke and Darin Aldridge, Kristin Scott Benson, David Grier, Billy Strings, Molly Tuttle, Jon Weisberger and a lot more.

The album is a mix of vocals and instrumentals.

White handles the vocals on “If You’re Ever Gonna Love Me,” “Little White Washed Chimney,” “Roll In My Sweet Baby’s Arms,” “Why You Been Gone So Long” and “I Might Take You Back.”

Instrumentals include “Nine Pound Hammer,” “I Am A Pilgrim,” “Listen To The Mockingbird,” “Clinch Mountain Backstep,” “Soldier’s Joy/Ragtime Annie,” “Alabama Jubilee” and “Farewell Blues.”

A good look at the legacy of a band most fans have forgotten.

It’s available on Amazon and other websites.