ROE FAMILY SINGERS, “Songs of the Mountains, Songs of the Plains,” Pinecastle. 15 tracks.

Posted April 30, 2018 by klawrence
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Think all music these days sounds the same?

Wanting an album that sounds different from all the rest?

Then, try the Roe Family Singers.

“Songs of the Mountains, Songs of the Plains” doesn’t sound like anything else you’re likely to hear.

I mean, how many albums these days feature an autoharp, musical saw, washboard, jug and kazoo among the instruments played?

Not to mention Appalachian clogging.

The Roe Family Singers are Kim and Quillan Roe and seven friends who play a wide variety of instruments.

Some of these songs have been around for generations.

The liner notes says  “Pretty Fair Maid in the Garden” dates back to 1822.

“Ida Red” has been around since 1915 and “Ol’ Rattler” since 1919.

Then, there’s A.P. Carter’s “Dixie Darling” and “Sweet Fern.”

And Albert Brumley’s “Rank Strangers.”

These are old songs.

But the Roe Family Singers make them sound fresh again.

And Quillan Roe has even written songs that sound as old as the traditional numbers.

“O Young Lovers,” “John the  Messenger,” “Peter Tosh,” “I’m Falling For You” and “The Road is Rocky” all sound as old as the hills and the plains.

There’s a Bill Monroe song — “Walk Softly on This Heart of Mine” — and a Woody Guthrie song — “This Land is Your Land.”

Chances are you’ve heard all but the original numbers dozens of times.

But you’ve never heard them quite like this.

No, it’s not really bluegrass.

It’s sort of  pre-bluegrass.

But you might want to check it out at starting May 4.

It’s probably the only album this year that includes the Affordable Care Act among its “Thank Yous.”


BALSAM RANGE, “Mountain Overture,” Mountain Home. 10 tracks.

Posted April 23, 2018 by klawrence
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Balsam Range has joined with the Atlanta Pops Orchestra Ensemble for a greatest hits album.

It sounds great.

But you have to wonder about the target audience.

Do bluegrass fans really want an orchestra backing the band?

And do orchestra fans really want bluegrass with their pops ensemble?

With a cello, flute, French horn, trumpet, trombone and drums, it would be a stretch to call this a bluegrass album.

But whatever you call it, it’s good.

Songs include “Trains I Missed,” the 2011 International Bluegrass Music Association’s song of the year.

“Blue Mountain” is a ballad about a man who’s been searching the country, trying to find out who he really is, but discovering that he left his soul with the woman he left behind.

“Eldorado Blue” is about a woman who married and settled in her hometown rather than follow her friends to the big city.

“From A Georgia Battlefield” and “Burning Georgia Down” are songs about the Civil War.

“Any Old Road (Will Take You There)” says if you don’t know where you’re going, it doesn’t matter which road you take to get there.

“Jack Diamond” is about a man setting out to kill the people who murdered his family and left him for dead.

“Matthew” is a John Denver song about a man who survived life’s traumas with faith and love.

“Last Train To Kitty Hawk” is about the birth of aviation, the demise of railroads and the changes that progress brings.

And “I Hear The Mountains” is about a man who hears his home calling him back.

A good album for fans with a loose interpretation of bluegrass.

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SIDELINE, “Moves Front & Center,” Mountain Home. 12 tracks

Posted April 2, 2018 by klawrence
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Sideline began as a recording project for musicians who were working in other bands.

A sideline, if you will.

But in 2013, it became a full-time band –moving front and center, as the new Mountain Home album says in its title.

The lineup for this album includes Steve Dilling, Jason Moore, Skip Cherryholmes, Nathan Aldridge, Troy Boone and Bailey Coe.

The album kicks off with “Thunder Dan,” an uptempo song about a mountain man who kills a preacher, is sentenced to 40 years in prison, shoots a deputy and escapes.

“Frozen In Time” is a ballad about a man who returns to his childhood after 40 years to find it gone — but still standing in his memory.

“Old Time Way” is hoe-down music.

Gordon Lightfoot‘s “Song For A Winter’s Night” finds the singer missing a woman as he settles in for a cold winter night.

“Bluefield WV Mtn. Girl” is about a woman a man can always count on.

“I Long To See His Face” and “Satan’s Chains” are gospel songs.

“Lysander Hayes” is an uptempo song about a man who lives to party — while his mother prays for his soul.

“Memories That We Shared” is a ballad about a man who can’t seem to erase the happy memories that haunt him now.

“Something Out of Nothing” says that no matter how hard you try, you can’t make someone love you.

“All Because of Me” is an uptempo song about a man who kills a woman because she loves someone else.

And “Cotton Eyed Joe” is a blazing instrumental.

The only label you need to put on this album is bluegrass.

Pure and simple.

Look for it on April 27.


STEEP CANYON RANGERS, “Out in the Open,” Ramseur Records. 12 tracks.

Posted January 22, 2018 by klawrence
Categories: Uncategorized

The Steep Canyon Rangers have been making bluegrass-based — but not necessarily bluegrass — music since 2000.

But it wasn’t until 2009, when they first teamed with Steve Martin, that the Rangers began to garner national attention.

In 2013, their album, “Nobody Knows You,” won the Grammy for best bluegrass album.

The Rangers have pushed the bluegrass boundaries with each album.

And “Out in the Open” may well be the best ever.

The first single, “Going Midwest,” is about a man on the move, thanking the woman he left behind for “being kind to a stranger.”

“Farmers and Pharaohs” finds the singer advising others to not let their true loves go the way he did.

The title track is about a man breaking free of the life he was living and deciding to live his life out in the open.

“Can’t Get Home” finds him visiting the house he grew up in, but finding that it’s no longer home.

“When She Was Mine” is about a man who realizes that he never wanted to be free.

“Love Harder” finds the singer deciding not to give up on a long-time relationship and resolving to just love harder.

“Let Me Die in My Footsteps” is a plea for world peace.

Bill Monroe wouldn’t call this album bluegrass.

But he’s been dead for more than 20 years.

And most bluegrass fans today will consider it close enough.

Another strong album from a great band.

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REBEKAH LONG, “Run Away,” LUK Records, 12 tracks

Posted December 4, 2017 by klawrence
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“Run Away” is only Rebekah Long’s second album on LUK Records.

But the Lincolnton, Georgia, native has been around the bluegrass and gospel circuit for years.

She toured and played upright bass with Little Roy Lewis and Lizzy Long — her twin sister — and also played bass in Valerie Smith & Liberty Pike for a time.

Now, Long is branching out as a solo artist.

She co-wrote nine of the 12 songs on the album with Donna Ulisse.

One she didn’t write is Elton John‘s “Honky Cat,” but Long makes it sound like an original.

The album opens with “Georgia Bound,” a song about heading home to the place where she grew up.

“I’ve Seen The Light,” not to be confused with Hank Williams‘ “I Saw The Light,” is a love song.

“Every Time I Fall Asleep” is about a love that exists only in her dreams.

The title track is about a man who runs away when she tells him she loves him.

“A Place Beyond The Clouds” and “Lay Your Isaac Down” are gospel songs.

The latter is a duet with her late husband, Ben Speer, who died earlier this year.

“My Greatest Shame” is about a woman who has a child out of wedlock and becomes so enraged with the way people in the town treat him that she starts murdering them.

“Fishin’ On The Cumberland” is an uptempo song about the joys of nature and fishing.

“The Swimming Song” is similar, but it’s about swimming.

“Welcome Me Back Home” is about a woman going back home to the man she loves and wishing she’d never left.

“Woodland Street” is about an elderly man, who apparently suffers from dementia, and his wife who go walking every night as she remembers better days.

A good album.

Can’t find it in stores? Try Amazon and other music sites.


WILSON BANJO CO., “Spirits in the Hills,” Bonfire. 14 tracks

Posted November 27, 2017 by klawrence
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Steve Wilson, banjo player and banjo builder, waited until his kids were grown to hit the bluegrass circuit with his own band.

Now, he’s making up for lost time.

“Spirits in the Hills” is the band’s first album, but it won’t be the last.

The title track is a spooky tale of a man with a hook for a hand who gives the singer a drink of moonshine and owns his soul.

“Shiner’s Mountain” is also about moonshiners in the hills and how you don’t want to be mistaken for a revenue agent.

“Forty Years of Trouble” is a hard-driving tale of a man who’s spent long years in prison and is longing to meet the son he’s never seen.

There are a couple of country songs — “Catfish John,” a 1972 hit for Johnny Russell, and “Carolina in the Pines,” a song Michael Martin Murphey released in both 1975 and 1985.

“Her Sunday Best” is about a woman whose Sunday best doesn’t mean her clothes. It means the way she’s lived her life.

“Railroad Man” tells the story of a man whose love life is going through a train wreck.

And there are a couple of gospel songs — “When He Reached Down His Hand” and “Ain’t No Grave.”

Band members include Sarah Logan, the fiddle player who sings lead on five tracks; Joey Newton, who plays guitar, banjo and fiddle and sings lead on two tracks; Dylan Armour, the Dobro player who sings lead on one track; Brandon Couch, who plays mandolin and sings lead on four tracks; and Rob Walker on bass.

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Keith Lawrence, 270-691-7301,

BRAD HUDSON, “Next New Heartache,” Pinecastle. 12 tracks

Posted November 20, 2017 by klawrence
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Brad Hudson was one of those child prodigies in bluegrass, picking and singing from a young age.

He’s worked at Dollywood — Dolly Parton‘s theme park — and in the bands of Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road and Jeff & Sheri Easter.

Now, he’s the lead singer and Dobro player in the band Sideline.

And Hudson has recorded his first solo album for Pinecastle — “Next New Heartbreak.”

It kicks off with “Ramblers Song,”  a hard-driving song about a man who proclaims that he’ll never settle down and likes to move from town to town.

Dolly Parton joins Hudson on her “Appalachian Memories,” a song about Southern people going north in search of the Promised Land — but never finding it.

“I Wonder What You See In Your Dreams” has a similar theme — a man watching the woman he loves go to the city to marry someone else.

The title track finds the singer hurting and waiting to be hurt again.

“Truckers Blues” finds a truck driver missing his wife and waiting for a chance to stop to eat and call her.

“Smoky Mountain Strong” is a tribute to the area devastated by a forest fire in 2016.

“The Day My Daddy Cried” is a song about a man who never cried — until the day his wife died.

Loretta Lynn’s “World of Forgotten People” is a ballad about people who are lonely and hurting.

Jeff & Sheri Easter and Hudson’s grandmother, Betty Swinson, join him on the gospel song, “Beulah Land.”

And there are a couple of instrumentals — “Hugging The Hound” and “My One And Only (Crystal’s Song),” the latter written by Hudson for his wife.

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