Balsam Range Standing Tall

Balsan-RangeBalsam Range Standing Tall
By Bill Conger

Like the majestic mountains for which the band derived its name, Balsam Range is standing tall and proud. After an incredible 2013, the band’s bucket list isn’t as long. The group lived one dream when it debuted on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry in March. Last year, they also hooked up with John Driskell Hopkins, bass player/singer from the hot country Zac Brown Band that propelled their music to new audiences. Then, there was the tremendous response of radio, fans, and the bluegrass music industry to their IBMA Album Of The Year, Papertown.   “Nobody’s more surprised when things go this well than I am,” Tim Surrett said with a chuckle. “We’ve tried our best to make good records, and we have good friends in radio who have been super kind to us, and I think that’s been huge. From the first day our first record came out, it was all over everywhere.”

The quintet is made up of Surrett, the entertaining MC, singer, upright bassist, and occasional resonator guitarist. He has performed and recorded with a string of bluegrass luminaries such as Tony Rice, J.D. Crowe, Bobby Osborne, Larry Sparks, Ronnie Bowman, Rhonda Vincent, and country stars Vince Gill, Brad Paisley, and Keith Urban. He was a star in his own right for years in the gospel music business, including a ten-year stint with The Kingsmen. Surrett is a member of the Southern Gospel Hall of Fame and a two-time Favorite Southern Gospel Musician in the Singing News Fan Awards. Read entire article »

Balsam Range Standing Tall
By Bill Conger

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July 2014 Reviews

seldom scene

SELDOM SCENE LONG TIME…SELDOM SCENE Smithsonian Folkways SFW CD40199  I felt a quiet sense of excitement and anticipation just opening this deeply inspired new retrospective collection and playing it for the first time. It’s a landmark release from a landmark band. It’s musical history. It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway), the Seldom […]

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VOLUME FIVE THE DAY WE LEARN TO FLY Mountain Fever Records MFR140318 With several recordings under their belt, Volume Five takes their turn at an all-gospel recording. Such recordings can be tricky for bands. Often a band will let the material dictate their sound. They’ll sound one way as a secular group and roundly different […]

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Darol Anger

DAROL ANGER e-and’a Adventure Music America AMA1086 2 Given the innovative nature of Darol Anger’s wide-ranging musical explorations, it’s easy to look at a title like e-and’a and think, “Oh, maybe he’s just decided to go one step beyond DNA.” And then, when you learn that the title is derived from counting off a tune […]

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THE STEVENS FAMILY BLUEGRASS BAND DOWN ON THE FARM Mountain Fever Records MFR 140415 This is a wonderful project from this very talented family band. Both vocally and instrumentally, the band is tight. The father, J.W. Stevens, plays banjo and sings bass. Nancy is the mother and sings. There are the three brothers, Luke (guitar, […]

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DAVE AND EMMA HART HOLD ON Out of Town Records 01301 This talented father/daughter team has produced a wonderful project of original material that features the vocal and violin prowess of young Emma Hart. While only containing six selections, the CD allows plenty of room for both Dave Hart’s songwriting and Emma’s singing and playing. […]

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GRAZZTRIO THREE SHEETS TO THE WIND Red Pigs Records 436039061873    I love the title of the Barcelona, Spain band’s debut CD, which is taken from the lead cut. Unlike the drunken escapades that might be expected from the song’s usual meaning, this three-piece experimental string band takes us on a serious frolic, covering a […]

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randy cook

RANDY COOK AND COMMONWEALTH BLUEGRASS BAND No Label RCCBB2014    This is the debut recording for Randy Cook and Commonwealth Bluegrass Band from the Mechanicsville area of Virginia. Cook, the leader, is on mandolin. With him is longtime associate Malcolm Pulley on banjo. Both have deep roots in the Virginia bluegrass scene, including a stint […]

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bluegrass express

BLUEGRASS EXPRESS IN OUR OWN WORDS Plum River PRP0114    The Underwoods have been playing bluegrass for a long time. It shows in the presence of their playing and singing. They’re at home with the contemporary style they bring to the music. It actually harkens back to the sound that the Osborne Brothers brought to […]

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LAND OF LINCOLN No Label No Number Along Rt. 1107 in mid-Kentucky lies the small town of Thelma. From that small town hails the Land of Lincoln bluegrass band, a well-rehearsed and hard-driving group consisting of Brad Powers (banjo), Ben Childers (guitar), Bruce Davis (mandolin), Mike Jarrell (guitar), and Michael Powers (bass). With Jarrell’s strong […]

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BLUE YONDER BITTERSWEET ROAD JaveLina Records JR-4584    Blue Yonder consists of John Lilly on vocals and rhythm guitar, Robert Shafer on lead/rhythm/electric guitar and mandolin, and Will Carter on bass fiddle. All ten songs are original compositions by John. In the liner notes, Larry Groce wrote, “Blue Yonder lives where classic country music meets […]

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IDLETYMES POOR MOUNTAIN HOME Poor Mountain Records No Number    Nearly thirty years as a band on any level doesn’t happen by accident. Southern Ohio and northern West Virginia’s Idletymes offers strong playing and singing with equal comfort on contemporary and traditional bluegrass material. Idletymes has developed into quite a good band and released this […]

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tammy jones robinette

TAMMY JONES ROBINETTE LET IT SHINE Little Creek No Number Produced by Mark Fain, this all-Gospel release features Ms. Robinette’s pleasing vocals backed by an impressive cadre of bluegrass musicians and vocalists. The band consists of Mark Fain (bass), Ron Block (guitar, banjo), Aubrey Haynie (fiddle), Rob Ickes (resonator guitar), Andy Leftwich (mandolin), and Molly […]

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DAVE ADKINS NOTHING TO LOSE Mountain Fever Records MFR140311 Kentucky-based vocalist Dave Adkins spent several years working in country and rock bands. So finding such colorations in his delivery on this forceful album of country and traditional and contemporary-style bluegrass tunes is not surprising. We are the heirs of our past, and for Adkins his […]

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Dry Branch Gospel Way

DRY BRANCH FIRE SQUAD THE GOSPEL WAY No Label No Number Though billed as a companion to Don’t Forget The Song that Dry Branch Fire Squad is releasing simultaneously, The Gospel Way needs no pairing to be fully enjoyed. Both were recorded at the same session and used similar recording techniques, but one doesn’t necessarily […]

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bill emerson

BILL EMERSON AND SWEET DIXIE DANCIN’ ANNIE Rural Rhythm Records RUR-1117 Along about track seven of this the fourth recording made for Rural Rhythm Records by Bill Emerson & Sweet Dixie, the band hits a three-song stretch that gives the album a lift. Seven songs in might seem late in the tracking for such a […]

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