Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

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.”

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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?


GENA BRITT, “Chronicle: Friends & Music,” Pinecastle. 13 tracks.

June 24, 2019

In 1990, North Carolina native Gena Britt moved to Nashville to work with Petticoat Junction, a popular bluegrass band at the time.

From there, she went on to work with New Vintage and Lou Reid and Carolina.

Britt formed her own band in 2001, worked with the Daughters of Bluegrass and later the Skip Cherryholmes Quintet.

In 2013, Britt was one of the founders of Sister Sadie and, a year later, she joined Grasstowne.

In other words, she’s been busy as a member of several popular bands.

But this summer, Britt is stepping out as a solo artist with “Chronicle: Friends & Music.”

There are a lot of friends playing and singing on the album.

Alicia Newton sings lead on “Get Up In Jesus’ Name,” an uptempo gospel number.

Brooke Aldridge takes over the lead vocal work on “On And On,” an old Bill Monroe song.

Marty Raybon is featured on “Traveling Poor Boy,” Duane Sparks on the the 1992 Joe Diffie hit, “Ships That Don’t Come In, and Robert Hale on “Looking Forward To The Good Life.”

Britt handles the vocal work on the rest of the album.

“Over And Over” compares love to a train and the singer says she feels like a hobo just hanging on.

“You Don’t Get Over That” says that some people get over lost loves — but some never do.

“Soldier’s Lament” and “Big Country” are instrumentals.

“Runaway Train” finds the singer leaving a man like, well, a runaway train.

“Come To Jesus” is bluegrass gospel.

“Daddy’s Shoes” finds the singer knowing that she can wear her father’s boots, but she can never fill his shoes.

And “Untold Stories” is about a couple who parted years ago and now discovers that it’s time to tear down the walls they’ve built between them.

Good album.

Look for it on July 12.

Bluegrass Hall of Fame sees visitors from 11 countries

June 3, 2019

OWENSBORO, Ky. — By the time the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum in downtown Owensboro celebrated its six-month anniversary in April, it had seen approximately 20,000 visitors from 11 countries, 35 states and at least 470 ZIP codes.

And that was during the late fall, winter and early spring — not prime travel time.

With summer on the horizon, Chris Joslin, the Hall of Fame’s executive director, expects bigger numbers.

Carly Smith, the marketing director, said visitors have come from Great Britain, Japan, United States’ minor outlying territories, France, Netherlands, Australia, Canada, South Africa, Thailand, India, China and Germany.

Terry Woodward, the Hall of Fame’s board chairman, has worked, pushed and contributed money since 1985 to get a world-class bluegrass museum in Owensboro.

“We opened in October, which is not the best travel time,” he said. “I think it’s done extremely well.”

The Hall’s Woodward Theatre has hosted 21 concerts since October.

And several of those shows have been streamed on the Internet.

“The last I heard, the Rhonda Vincent show had been viewed 347,000 times,” Woodward said. “And 150,000 of those were the night of the show.”

He said, “We’ve had comments on the show from people in Russia, Thailand, Japan, New Zealand, Scotland and a lot more countries.”

Smith said, “Opening in the fall gave us time to focus on the Hall of Fame without ROMP coming up. ROMP is when most of the fans are in town. A lot of activities are planned during ROMP this year.”

She’s expecting about 27,500 fans at the bluegrass festival on June 26-29 — about the same as last year.

“During ROMP, Rhonda Vincent and Del McCoury will bring their tour buses to the museum,” Smith said. “They’ll come inside, pick a couple of songs and sign autographs for the fans. We’ll have some smaller bands playing in the lobby. We’re having a film festival too, with documentaries and some of our video oral history films.”

The Pickin’ Parlor at the entrance to the museum has walls lined with good instruments for people to take down and play.

“It is really getting a lot of use,” Joslin said. “It has become a source of real engagement for people. We have some really good musicians and some who just like to strum an instrument and listen to and watch others. We’re getting good crowds in there at the shows.”

He said, “We plan to launch the outdoor shows during the Owensboro Air Show in September when a lot of people are downtown. Starting in 2020, we plan three or four outdoor shows a year.”

The outdoor stage is on the river side of the museum, with a large grassy area for people to sit and listen to the music.

The Hall of Fame has seven full-time employees, he said, plus “two about three-quarter time and a host of part-time workers and volunteers.

“We have people from St. Louis, Louisville and Lexington who have come to several shows,” Joslin said. “We want to see more of that. People have to come to Owensboro intentionally. We have to give them a reason. That’s why we partner with O.Z. Tyler. The museums in town, even Holiday World, give people an incentive to come. To make the trip, they have to have more than one thing to do.”

And with regular concerts by top bands in Woodward Theatre, bluegrass fans have a reason to visit, he said.

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?