Posted tagged ‘banjo’

KRISTIN SCOTT BENSON, “Stringworks,” Mountain Home, 12 tracks

August 1, 2016


Kristin Scott Benson is a four-time winner of the International Bluegrass Music Association’s banjo player of the year and she’s been nominated for three Grammys as a member of the Grascals.

She got her first banjo for Christmas when she was 13 and hasn’t stopped seeking new ways to get the instrument to do new things.

“Stringworks,” her third solo album and first since 2009, features six instrumentals and six vocal numbers.

Benson wrote four of the instrumentals — “Great Waterton,” a rambunctious tune based on her son’s building and destroying the block town from Thomas the Train; “Eagle Eye Annie,” a happy tune named for Opie’s fishing rod on “The Andy Griffith Show”; “Traveler’s Rest,” a slow peaceful tune; and “Fisher,” a tune named for her dog.

Benson always includes a traditional tune on her albums. This time, it’s “Foggy Mountain Top.”

Claire Lynch sings lead on “When Fall Comes To New England,” Chris Jones on “All I Want Is You,” Mickey Harris on “Sink or Swim,” Shawn Lane on “You Gotta Climb Over The Cross,” Terry Eldridge on “Foggy Mountain Top,” (which also features her grandfather singing it on a radio show from the 1940s) and Grant Williams on “Till The Day Breaks.”

A good album.

Hopefully, it won’t be seven years until the next one.

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BILL EMERSON, “Eclipse,” Rural Rhythm. 14 tracks.

June 6, 2011

At 73, Bill Emerson has had the kind of career most bluegrass artists can only dream of — and he’s still going strong.

Emerson, one of the most influential banjo players this side of Earl Scruggs, has been performing for 56 years now in a career that began with Uncle Bob & the Blue Ridge Partners in 1955.

Two years later, he joined with Charlie Waller, John Duffey and Larry Lahey to create The Country Gentlemen, one of the top acts in bluegrass.

In 1959, Emerson began moving around.

First, the Stoneman Family. Then, Bill Harrell, Red Allen, Jimmy Martin and Cliff Waldron’s New Shades of Grass.

It was with Waldron in 1968 that Emerson’s banjo turned Manfred Mann’s folk-rock song, “Fox on the Run,” into a bluegrass classic.

He returned to the Gentlemen in 1969 for four years and then began a 20-year career in the U.S. Navy, leading the Navy’s bluegrass band Country Current.

These days, Emerson is back heading his own band, Sweet Dixie.

“Eclipse” is his seventh solo album.

It’s primarily a showcase of Emerson’s instrumental compositions. He wrote nine of the 14 tracks.

Marshall Wilborn sings lead on the traditional “Jesse James,” with his wife, Lynn Morris, singing harmony.

Jenny Leigh Obert provides vocals for “Don’t Come Around,” a song she wrote.

And Tom Adams sings the traditional “Poor Rebel Soldier.” It’s the album’s first single.

Instrumentals include “New San Juan,” “Coast to Coast,” “Chilly Winds,” “Espanol,” “Bed and Breakfast,” “Ride It Out,” “Tex Mex Shindig,” “No Streering — No Brakes,” “Dickerson County Breakdown,” “The Grey Ghost” and “Old Cane Pole.”

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ROSS NICKERSON, “Bluegrass Banjo: Let’s Kick It,” Bones Records. 14 tracks

January 17, 2011

Ross Nickerson, a banjo player and teacher (, has released a new album of banjo tunes backed by members of Blue Highway.

He wrote two tracks — “Roundhouse” and “Feeling Low.”

But this is primarily an album of familiar bluegrass tunes.

The album features five Bill Monroe tunes — “Kentucky Mandolin,” “Old Dangerfield,” “Bluegrass Breakdown,” “Jerusalem Ridge” and “Wheel Hoss” — along with Jim & Jesse McReynolds’ “Dixie Hoedown.”

Traditional tunes include “Cluck Old Hen,” “Little Maggie,” “Don’t This Road Look Rough and Rocky,” “You Can’t Stop Me From Dreaming” and “John Henry.”

Nickerson also takes on George and Ira Gershwin’s “Lady Be Good.”

Most are instrumentals, but Tim Stafford and Wayne Taylor add vocals to “Little Maggie” and “John Henry.”

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