CANE MILL ROAD

Cane-Mill-RoadCANE MILL ROAD
FIVE SPEED

No Label
No Number

It’s a good sign that there are so many fresh faces coming into bluegrass these days. They don’t get much fresher or younger looking than Cane Mill Road. The band, already making a name for itself, has released its first album, Five Speed. The group from Deep Gap, N.C. (Doc Watson country) was a 2017 IBMA World Of Bluegrass Showcase Band and represented the United States at the 2015 International Music Festival in Argentina.

The album, which stands out for its clean sound, was produced by two-time Grammy winner Cathy Fink and also Tom Mindte of Patuxent Music. The album is a mix of bluegrass, folk, and Americana. The ten tracks cover The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Don Stover, and Bill Monroe, with a couple of original pieces thrown in. Guitar/mandolin/fiddle/clawhammer banjo player Liam Purcell handles the vocal duties and is joined by Fink on “Things In Life,” one of the strongest pieces on the album. Tray Wellington plays banjo and guitar, and Eliot Smith holds the beat on bass. Wellington’s original “Trajan’s Ride” is topnotch. Also in the band, but not on the album is guitarist Casey Lewis.

As so many new groups are doing, this album was produced via crowdfunding and without a label. It’s a solid debut effort. (Cane Mill Road, P.O. Box 249, Deep Gap, NC 28618, www.canemillroad.com.)MKB


KIM ROBINS

Kim-RobinsKIM ROBINS
RAINING IN BALTIMORE

Pinecastle Records
PRC 1205

It was beginning to look like another forty years wait for Kim Robins’ second release. Her first, titled 40 Years Late, was self-released in 2013. Then came another gap. Now this new one finally arrives, and it seems to have been worth the delay. Not only is she with a label (Pinecastle Records), but her delivery, her support, and her song choices sound much more convincing. Having three/fifths of The Boxcars (banjoist and fiddler Ron Stewart, mandolinist Adam Steffey, and bassist Harold Nixon) matched with Ricky Wasson makes for a unified sound with plenty of pop.

Robins includes three originals and no standards, opting instead for strong, recently written tunes from the likes of Mike Evans, Bill Castle, and Donna Hughes. The closest to a warhorse is Asleep At The Wheel’s “My Baby Thinks He’s A Train.” That stands among the modal tale of revenge titled “Eye For An Eye,” the bluesy stomp of “I’ll Be Loving You,” Jay Don Johnson’s “Stone Cold Blue,” and the sliding country of “Blue Yesterdays.” Robins’ three originals fit well beside them. Her best is the title tune, taken slow and watery with a touch of autobiography. Although her “She’s Just Like You,” fast and with an extremely catchy chorus, is not far off.

Finally, note the strengthening of Robins’ voice. She is definitely more confident now and more consistent. She’s sliding into notes, bending them and twisting, and reaching up higher. It’s all so impressive—the band, the songs, the voice—and worth the wait. (Pinecastle Records, 2514 River Rd., Ste. 105, Piedmont, SC 29673, www.pinecastlemusic.com.)BW


GALAX BOGTROTTERS

Galax-BogtrottersGALAX BOGTROTTERS
OLD TIME JUBILATIONS

Dittyville
No Number

   The Galax Bogtrotters are Eddie Bond on fiddle, banjo, guitar, and vocals, Erynn Marshall on fiddle, banjo, and vocals, Carl Jones on mandolin, guitar, banjo, and vocals, Eric Hill on guitar and banjo, and Bonnie Bond on bass and vocals. Joe Dejarnette plays bass on “Pretty Little Widder.” Their 17 wonderful tunes and songs (there are two medleys) feature four originals by Erynn, Eddie, and Eric.

   They open with Emmett Lundy’s Mixolydian “Highlander’s Farewell” with Eddie on fiddle and Erynn on banjo. Ed Haley’s “Ida Red” and “Red Rocking Chair” feature both on fiddle. In a medley of two Albert Hash tunes, “Drunk Man’s Blues” and a quick-paced “Little Brown Hand,” Erynn fiddles and Eddie banjos. They switch back for Uncle Norm Edmonds’ “Ship In The Clouds.” It’s back to double fiddle for a medley of “Southern Girl’s Reply,” sung by Bonnie, and “Year Of Jubilo.” “Bull Run Creek” is Erynn’s original tune, and I predict it will join her “Springfield” in future jams. Erynn and Carl sing Charlie Poole’s “Highway Man.” Eric wrote “Foggy Creek” and plays banjo with Eddie’s fiddle. “Pretty Little Widder,” from John Ashby, is double fiddled. Eddie and Bonnie sing the plaintive Carter Family song, “Lover’s Return.” The rich blend of double fiddles returns for Erynn’s “Oak Ridge Waltz.” “Shady Grove” is a unique version from Eddie’s grandfather, fiddled and sung by Eddie. “October Morning” is Eddie’s original tune. “Kingdom Come” has a melody from Uncle Norm and words by Carl who sings it with Erynn’s solo fiddle tuned to DDAD.

   These are all powerful musicians and singers, and they make amazing music together in many combinations and arrangements. Their recording comes with this reviewer’s highest recommendation. It provides great listening to carefully chosen music, and who could ask for more than that? (www.galaxbogtrotters.com)SAG

 


THE FARM HANDS

Farm-HandsTHE FARM HANDS
COLORS

Pinecastle Records
PRC 1208

The Farm Hands continue down the same furrow with their latest recording. What has worked in the past, works here. Their previous releases have all been characterized by direct, unflashy but highly appropriate instrumental work, and by warm lead vocals and very smooth harmonies. Song choices have been about basic, down-to-earth values with a generous lean toward religious and religion-inspired beliefs. That’s exactly what you’ll find with their new recording.

There has been a change at the banjo slot, Don Hill replacing Bennie Bolling, but the positive aim of creating vibrant, uplifting music has not changed at all. The value of the simple country life is extolled first in Daryl Mosely’s upbeat opener “Rural Route,” with its friendly neighbors, fried chicken, and sweet tea. Later, that theme comes up again with “His Old Fiddle,” reviewing a life well-lived. Both are very good. “Colors” is about respect for country and the military, while “They Don’t Make ’Em Like My Daddy Anymore” is self explanatory. At first glance, Gram Parsons’ “Sin City” might seem a little out of place, but its message of caution about falling for the snares of the world, be it the music business or anything else, makes for a good fit.

Scattered among those “good values” songs are five gospel songs that offer thoughts on various subjects: never being truly alone (“The Four Of Us”); the world as seen from the viewpoint of a Bible (“The Bible In The Drawer”); and the rewards to come (“I’m Going Home”). All solid, all uplifting—as is this recording in general. (Pinecastle Records, 2514 River Rd., Ste. 105, Piedmont, SC 29673, www.pinecastlemusic.com.)BW


HAMMERTOWNE

HAMMERTOWNEHAMMERTOWNE
HILLBILLY HEROES

Mountain Fever
MFR 170602

This is the third release from the Kentucky-based band Hammertowne. It’s the same five guys returning. Bandmembers David Carroll, Bryan Russell, and Brent Pack had a hand in writing eight of the twelve songs, drawing on Bill Castle, Del McCoury, Jerry Dill, and Evan Maynard for the rest. Carroll wrote six, Russell one, and Pack the solid closing instrumental, “Lights And Sirens.” Of all those, no less than seven deserve mentioning and three of those merit a little extra praise. The Castle and McCoury songs, “The Dream” and “I’m Lonely For My Only,” would be among the former, along with Carroll’s gritty “Don’t Ever Cross A Moonshine Man” and “Scorcher Carroll’s Farm.” They’re good songs with either a captivating melody or interesting hooks and wordplay.

Maynard’s “Rainy Old River Town” and Carroll’s “Bluer By The Minute” and “A Day In The Life Of The One Left Behind” go them one better. They’re just fine songs all around. The Carroll songs, in particular, feature the kind of clever lyrics that you find yourself listening for, as in his memorable chorus line from “A Day In The Life…” Last Friday, next Sunday, may as well be Monday. That’s a great line in a fine song on a very good recording. (Mountain Fever, 1177 Alum Ridge Rd. NW, Willis, VA 24380, www.mountainfever.com.)BW


LONESOME RIVER BAND

LONESOME-RIVER-BANDLONESOME RIVER BAND
MAYHAYLEY’S HOUSE

Mountain Home
MH16852

The number of former members who’ve cycled through the Lonesome River Band since its founding 35 years ago is in the dozens. Through it all, it’s been banjo master Sammy Shelor, who’s kept a sure and steady hand on the tiller. Nearly 20 albums into the game, LRB has never sounded better or played with more exhilaration. The 13 song choices on Mayhayley’s House are spot-on, and the music sparkles with emotional nuance and rustic beauty, not to mention an almost organic authenticity.

It’s hard to pick standouts here. But for starters, there’s a brilliant ballad of love, loss, and painful nostalgia called “Old Coyote Town” (co-written by Larry E. Boone, Gene Nelson, and Paul N. Nelson, Jr.) and “Diggin’” (Eli Johnston and Kevin McKinnon), a plum-pitiful lament of a man on a comically self-defeating losing streak. There’s also an eerie murder ballad called “Blackbirds And Crows” (Don Humphries) that’s recounted with such disarming nonchalance that it makes it all the more sinister. The heartwarming everyday drama of “Hickory Hollow Times And County News” (Matthew Lindsey and Herb McCullough) sounds ripped right from the headlines of a small-town newspaper. Yet another delight is LRB’s reprise of Melba Montgomery’s “As The Crow Flies.”

Although, nothing tops the title tune, written by Adam Wright. (It has a whole back story of its own that I don’t have time or the space to get into here). It’s a true story charged with mystery and emotion, and it encapsulates the rustic beauty that prevails throughout this entire album. (Mountain Home, P.O. Box 829, Arden, NC 28704, www.mountainhomemusiccompany.com.)BA


OLD SALT UNION

OLITSKY&MOSKOVITZOLD SALT UNION

Compass Records
7 4693 2

By signing with Compass Records, Old Salt Union brings their edgy and rootsy style to a major label. Yes, they have all the elements of bluegrass, but they also bring in their other influences of rock, classical, hip-hop, and Americana. The band consists of John Brighton (fiddle, strings, mandolin), Ryan Murphey (banjo), Justin Wallace (mandolin, piano), Rob Kindle (guitar), and Jesse Farrar (bass, percussion). Guest artists include Dustin Eiskant (guitar), Meredith DiMenna (kazoo), and Mike Johnson (pedal steel).

With the exception of an excellent version of Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al,” the rest of the material comes from bandmembers Farrar, Wallace, and Brighton. Brighton offers some nice fiddle work on his “Flatt Baroque,” while Farrar’s tunes include “Where I Stand,” “Bought And Sold,” “Tuscaloosa,” and “Madam Plum,” and Wallace gives us “Feel My Love,” “On My Way,” and “Hard Line.” The music on this project showcases not only the band’s songwriting, but also their vocals and instrumental arrangements. For a young band, Old Salt Union is a polished, strong unit, and this album should go far to solidify their place as one of the new fresh faces on the scene. (Compass Records, 916 19th Ave., Nashville, TN 37212, www.compassrecords.com.)BF


PAUL KOVAC

Paul-KovacPAUL KOVAC
OHIO BLUEGRASS: FROM THE
APPALACHIAN PLATEAU, VOL. 1

Yodel-Ay-Hee
093

There is plenty of good new music coming down the pipe in a bluegrass world that is constantly flexing its muscles and frequently crossing genres. Then along comes Paul Kovac with a new, old, traditional, big sound. Yes, it’s hard to describe. Kovac has been recording since 1978, having played with Bill Monroe, Chubby Wise, Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones, Dave Evans, and Hazel Dickens. He even made an instructional guitar video with Roy Clark.

Ohio Bluegrass: From the Appalachian Plateau, Vol. 1 gives a nod to the folks across the river in Kentucky and southern Ohio, but carves its own niche without a doubt. It is none of the above, but it is for sure influenced by all the aforementioned sounds, and most importantly, it can be called good music.

Kovac, who makes the banjo talk on Lester Flatt’s “I’ll Never Love Another,” plays banjo and guitar, and sings as well. David Mayfield joins on harmony vocals, mandolin, and guitar; Bill Lestock on fiddle; Ron Bonkowski on harmony vocals and guitar; and Kevin Johnson on bass and guitar. “In A Song,” “Some Things You Take to Your Grave,” “Climbin’ Up,” and Bill Anderson’s classic “The Lord Knows I’m Drinking” are not to be missed. Those are just the highlights. The album is well-ordered and a fun ride from start to finish. (www.paulkovac.com)MKB


THE GRASCALS

GRASCALSTHE GRASCALS
BEFORE BREAKFAST

Mountain Home
MH16872

One of the many charms and attributes that have won The Grascals a multitude of fans in recent years is the band’s capacity to convey everything from heart-stopping earnestness to lighthearted, even goofy humor. On the one hand, there are heart palpitators: The mournful “Demons” (written by Bill Anderson and Jon Randall); a lovely revival of “Pathway Of Teardrops”; a honky-tonk oldie composed by Webb Pierce and Wayne P. Walker; the subtle but powerful Kelsi Harrigill-penned gospel ode “There Is You”; and the eerie opening track “Sleepin’ With The Reaper” (Becky Buller and Grant Williams).

Then, on the latter and more lighthearted side, we have the tongue-in-cheek “Beer Tree” (Harley Allen and Robert Ellis Oral) on which co-lead vocalist Terry Eldredge serves up an aptly cornpone vocal performance. Eldredge hits a similar stride on a delightful reprise of Jim Stafford’s and Bobby Starnes’ “Clear Corn Liquor.”

One of the many cuts where this celebrated sextet brings its full range of vocal and instrumental artistry and exuberance to bear is the celebratory “(Dance With Me) Delia” (Jon Weisberger, Charlie Chamberlain, and Charles R. Humphrey III). It’s one of many reminders herein as to why this band has made such a name for itself since its 2004 debut. (Crossroads Entertainment, P.O. Box 829, Arden, NC 28704, www.mountainhomemusiccompany.com.)BA


RHONDA VINCENT & DARYLE SINGLETARY

RHONDA&DARYLERHONDA VINCENT & DARYLE SINGLETARY
AMERICAN GRANDSTAND

Upper Mgmt. Music
UM011

If you’re a fan of traditional country duos like George Jones/Tammy Wynette and Conway Twitty/Loretta Lynn, then this CD is a perfect match. As always, Rhonda Vincent’s vocals are spot-on. This time, she has the added benefit of recording with a true country traditionalist, Daryle Singletary, who had hits in the 1990s with “I Let Her Lie” and “Too Much Fun.”  Says Vincent, “I’ve always loved singing with Daryle Singletary. He is one of the greatest singers in this generation of country music.”

The 12-track disc includes the lead single “One,” as well as “Golden Ring” that George and Tammy made famous. “Above And Beyond” was a Top 5 hit for Country Music Hall of Famer Buck Owens, “After The Fire Is Gone” and “Louisiana Woman Mississippi Man” was cut by Conway and Loretta, and “We Must Have Been Out Of Our Minds” is a song that Jones sang with a different duet partner, Melba Montgomery. Vincent penned the title-cut “American Grandstand.” She and Singletary produced the CD. This disc is an excellent follow-up for fans who enjoyed Vincent’s album Only Me that was half country/half bluegrass. (Upper Mgmt. Music, 1036 Tulip Grove Rd., Hermitage, TN 37076, www.americangrandstand.com)BC


THE BLUEGRASS UNIT

BLUEGRASS-UNITTHE BLUEGRASS UNIT
SETLIST VOL.1

No Label
TBU-1

This Canadian band has a great vocal trio and lots of hot licks to back it up. Everyone is a fine singer, and they sing their parts with lots of drive in a powerful delivery. Their picking is just as solid, with Justin Nauss on banjo, Kenny Collins on bass, Jeff Nauss on guitar, and Waylon Robicheau on mandolin. They receive some mighty fine support from Ray Legere and Matt Hayes on fiddle and Franky Doody and Andrew Sneddon on resonator guitar. Their instrumental touches add the splash that fills out the arrangements and turns the music up a notch.

The material reflects their influences—Tony Rice Unit, Bluegrass Album Band, J.D. Crowe & the New South, and the Bluegrass Cardinals. They update older pieces such as Flatt & Scruggs’ “Foggy Mountain Rock” and “Why Don’t You Tell Me So.” They bring new life to Paul Simon’s “Leaves That Are Green” and Chad & Jeremy’s “Yesterday’s Gone” and they reveal yet another influence, Boone Creek, with their cover of “One Way Track.”

There is a wealth of newer material here, as well, including their instrumental “Saulnierville.” The brothers Nauss bring that harmony that only siblings share, while also sharing banjo and guitar roles. This is a highly talented band that should be a real find for those looking for something new, refreshing, and at once familiar. Great singing, strong material and powerful presentation make this a mainstream must for the avid bluegrass fan. (www.thebluegrassunit.ca)RCB


CAROLINA BLUE

CAROLINA-BLUECAROLINA BLUE
SOUNDS OF KENTUCKY GRASS

Poor Mountain Records
PMR-0004

   This album’s attention-grabbing set of hard bluegrass songs presents a genuine breakout for Carolina Blue. That backstory of a western N.C. band named Carolina Blue releasing an album called Sounds Of Kentucky Grass further distinguishes the album in a crowded marketplace. Although noted for their original songs (Balsam Range has recorded “Spring Will Bring Flowers” by mandolinist Tim Jones), this album almost entirely consists of covers of compositions by Lawrence Lane and his bandmate Jimmy Dutton. Living in Ohio around 1970, those two formed the Kentucky Grass, one of the very few bluegrass bands at that time focused on original material (it included Dwight Dillman on banjo). Lane was Jones’ great uncle and from him, Jones “inherited” the songs on Sounds Of Kentucky Grass.

Carolina Blue did a favor for all who appreciate hardcore bluegrass music by reviving these songs which largely contain all the lyrical and musical attributes of classic bluegrass. The album contains too many good-to-excellent tracks to list them all. The very best consist of the exceptional “Hell Come The Night,” “No Room In My World,” and the rousing “Bonnie Goodbye.” The only substandard one is the lead off “Enoch’s Still,” which suffers from being too busy instrumentally.

The band formed a decade ago when its guitarist Bobby Powell and Jones recorded a Woody Platt produced album. Counting that, which the band does, makes Sounds Of Kentucky Grass their fourth project. Bassist Reese Combs and James McDowell on banjo complete the ensemble. The amazing and too-little-appreciated David Johnson guests on fiddle on a dozen of the 14 tracks. Johnson’s playing provides many highlights, whether kicking off tunes, taking breaks, or inserting fills at just the right moment. He sets the bar very high for Carolina Blue’s regular fiddler playing live. McDowell also stands out with strong backup and solo playing. Sounds Of Kentucky Grass will prove one of the best projects of the year by a band with which most readers were not previously familiar. (www.carolinablueband.com)AM


DOUG FLOWERS

doug-flowersDOUG FLOWERS
FAVORITES

No Label
No Number

The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s Will The Circle Be Unbroken album served as the inspirational concept for Doug Flowers latest CD. Flowers, who has performed with the Little Roy & Lizzy Show and Clinton Gregory, gathered together some of his favorite singers, songwriters, and pickers for a jam session in the studio. “Sometimes that means you sing, and sometimes others do,” Flowers said in the liner notes. “It means sometimes you take a break, and sometimes others do.”

The end result was a 13-song disc that exudes a fun informal picking session. Co-produced by Scott Vestal, the CD features Sam Bush, Don Rigsby, Vestal, Donna Ulisse, Marty Raybon, Cody Kilby, Tim Stafford, Mike Bub, Randy Hayes, Gaven Largent, Dustin Benson, Justin Moses, Jason Roller, Tony Arata, Lisa Shaffer, Jim Iler, Rickey Rakestraw, Tabor Flowers Henson, Torey Flowers, Brandon Henson, Jeff White, and Chris Brown.

Flowers tackles tribute songs to some of his musical influences such as J.D. Crowe & the New South on the tune “Another Town,” the Stanley Brothers with “Your Stepping Stone,” and Bill Monroe and the original Blue Grass Boys with “Will You Be Loving Another Man.” According to Flowers, “This song, one of my favorites from that era, was the first song that featured Earl Scruggs on an up-tempo break.” He puts his bluegrass spin on the Clay Walker country hit “Dreaming With My Eyes Wide Open” and the clever “I Need To Be Heard,” a song about a song. Flowers rounds out the CD with a family collaboration on one of his favorite gospel numbers, “Might To Save,” with his daughter, son, and son-in-law. This collection of Flowers’ favorites is a beautiful bouquet of music. (www.dougflowersmusic.com)BC


FIDDLER’S DREAM

FIDDLERS-DREAMFIDDLER’S DREAM: OLD-TIME, SWING, AND BLUEGRASS FIDDLING IN TWENTIETH CENTURY MISSOURI
BY HOWARD WIGHT MARSHALL

Univ. Of Missouri Press 9780826221216. CD included, 448 pp., 111 photos, $29.95.
(Chicago Distribution Ctr., 11030 S. Langley Ave., Chicago, IL 60628, upress.missouri.edu.)

This second volume by Marshall on the fiddling in Missouri brings the reader up to the twentieth century, building upon his earlier volume Play Me Something Quick And Devilish. Like this previous volume, a CD of fiddle music accompanies the book, putting sounds to the stories and names and some of the transcriptions included herein.

The wide variety of styles are defined and a series of chapters detail the everchanging world and lives of Missouri fiddlers. Chapters focus on radio fiddlers, music parties, individual fiddlers such as Lonnie Robertson. There’s a chapter on Missourians who moved West to California and Washington and a bit about their influences on the fiddle scene there. There’s a candid description of fiddle contests that peels back the mystique, laying bare the realities of this phenomenon. There are chapters detailing the showier aspects of the art on radio and stage shows. There’s a fine section on the swing scene including Kansas City and the influence of Joe Venuti on Western Swing fiddlers and jazzier aspects of the genre. Claude “Fiddler” Williams and his jazz fiddle are included.

No description of Missouri fiddling would be complete without mentioning the bluegrass players, Lonnie Hopper and Lyman Enloe. Also included is Cecil Goforth, an important fiddler that John Hartford brought to a lot of people’s attention. Hartford did a lot for the fiddlers of Missouri (he grew up in Saint Louis, although born in New York City). For those familiar with Hartford’s later recordings, there are stories in this volume about many of the fiddlers he cited on those recordings.

The included CD is a wealth of great fiddling taken from a wide array of sources brought together by Voyager Records, perhaps the leading fiddle music label of today. The recording quality ranges from rough to quite good with fine examples of great fiddlers.

This volume ends its focus with the 1960s, another turning point for fiddle music. Recordings and radio were major shakeups in the status quo of old-time fiddling, making the music more accessible over wider areas. That Missouri was able to keep its fiddle traditions intact as well is it did is part of the book’s focus. It’s Marshall’s feeling that from the 1960s on, the revival and the spread of technology has caused a major shakeup once again, and a third volume is in order to fully document all that’s happened since. This book holds many interesting revelations, such as what did Lawrence Welk have to do with traditional fiddling in Missouri? Ah, the joys of a well-researched and annotated tome.RCB


THE SOWELL FAMILY PICKERS

SOWELL-FAMILYTHE SOWELL FAMILY PICKERS
TRUST IN THE LORD

No Label
No Number

As with many family bands, the Sowells are, at their core, a gospel bluegrass band. That does not necessarily mean that all of their material is gospel bluegrass. They follow what seems to be a rising trend in bluegrass, one in which bands with gospel orientations mix gospel tunes with inspirational secular songs and even with an occasional instrumental. The result is an 11-track recording on which six are definitely in the gospel camp. They include the two songs that open the album, “Trust In The Lord” and “Nothin’ Can Hold Me Here,” both upbeat numbers with catchy melodies and solid rhythm. Also on the gospel side are “Three Wooden Crosses” and “That’s My Child (And She Is Free).” On those, it’s the message that is upbeat, even as the stories themselves are somewhat tragic and tense. All four of those are highlight tracks.

By contrast are the secular tunes. “This Old House” is a slow, memory song about the sale of the homestead, followed by a rewrite of “Thank God I’m A Country Boy” titled “Thank God For The Country Store.” Ralph Stanley’s instrumental “Clinch Mountain Backstep” is followed a bit later by “The Devil Went Down To Georgia,” and then closing out is the Alabama classic “Mountain Music.” Of those, the latter three stand out best.

If anyone has any questions about the picking ability of the Sowell Family, they should listen to both “Clinch Mountain Backstep” and “The Devil Went Down To Georgia.” Both are played with authority and creativity. “Mountain Music,” along with “Trust In The Lord” and “That’s My Child,” show the band at their vocal best. All in all, this is a solid, spirited recording. (Sowell Family, P.O. Box 229, Hempstead, TX 77445, www.thesowellfamilypickers.com.)BW


EDDY RAVEN WITH CAROLINA ROAD

Eddy-Raven-Carolina-RoadEDDY RAVEN WITH CAROLINA ROAD
ALL GRASSED UP

Pinecastle Records
PRC 1207

Eddy Raven’s foray into bluegrass can be traced to his appearance on Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road’s bluegrass tribute to country music of the ’70s. He was one of ten or so stars of the period who put their lead voices to bluegrass/country-hybrid reprises of some of their hits. Raven contributed “I Got Mexico,” one of that album’s highlights. Two years later, that release prompted Raven to throw in all together with a full bluegrass recording. Again, Jordan and Carolina Road are the backing band.

Most of the material consists of bluegrass versions of some of Raven’s better-known songs. He, again, includes “I Got Mexico,” giving it a bit more bluegrass flavor and an extended solo section, but retains the catchy riff that helps define the song. It’s a highlight track. There’s a fine version of “Thank God For Kids,” and uptempo versions of “Operator, Operator,” “Bayou Boys,” and “Who Do You Know In California.” All are good, as is the pedal steel country of “Island.” Raven wrote the title tune opener, a medium/fast rhythmic tune about getting wrapped up in bluegrass music.

Raven has a good feel for bluegrass phrasing, and his songs (with the help of Carolina Road’s backing) make the transition with ease. The tunes don’t sound forced into a bluegrass mold, nor do they lose their original country flavor. The mixing of Raven’s different vocal sound and a break from the usual lyric fare, all wrapped up in bluegrass, makes for a welcome change of pace. (Pinecastle Records, 2514 River Rd., Ste. 105, Piedmont, SC 29673, www.pinecastlemusic.com.)BW


DICK KIMMEL AND PAMELA LONGTINE

KIMMEL-&-LONGTINEDICK KIMMEL AND PAMELA LONGTINE
FIDDLE AND MANDOLIN

Dick Kimmel Music
CD 2017-01

You certainly can’t say that Dick Kimmel and Pamela Longtine haven’t diversified the music on their first recording together. With the exception of bluegrass, which gets only a slight nod in that both “Rain And Snow” and “Pretty Little Miss Out In The Garden” were covered by Del McCoury and the Stanleys respectively, there’s quite a mix of old-time and folk styles in an array of tempos and settings. About half are original and half traditional.

There are mandolin (Kimmel) and fiddle (Longtine) duets on the Kimmel original “Lima Beans” and the lively cover of the standard “Buffalo Gals.” There’s a solo fiddle (and foot-tapping) version of the French-Canadian tune “Reel Du Ting Tang” and a twin-fiddle and guitar-supported medley of “Three Jigs.” A full stringband treatment backs Longtine’s “Metamorphosis Stomp,” while quartets of guitar, mandolin, fiddle, and bass provide the support for “Pretty Little Miss…,” “Fly Away To Mexico,” and Kimmel’s mournful look at London’s displaced poor on “Homeless And Heartbroken.” A couple of Irish-tinged marches, a waltz, a schottische, and a guitar-driven version of “Rain And Snow” round out the recording.

Kimmel should be familiar to readers of BU. His talent is well-known and documented. Longtine, also Minnesota-based, is no less talented. While their music here is enjoyable and well-played, most impressive is their ability to write tunes that sound as if they could be a hundred years old. “Metamorphosis Stomp,” a sort of ragtime, music-box tune, could be a lost side from the Leake County Revelers. Kimmel’s “Lima Beans” and Longtine’s “Desnoyer Waltz” and “Glyndon Turkey Schottische” could easily fool you into thinking they’re from a long-ago time and place. That’s an admirable skill and this is an admirable album. (Dick Kimmel Music, P.O. Box 101, New Ulm, MN 56073, www.dickkimmel.com.)BW


FIRESIDE COLLECTIVE

FIRESIDE-COLLECTIVEFIRESIDE COLLECTIVE
LIFE BETWEEN THE LINES

No Label
No Number

Write what you know. Musicians know the road and that’s the stated inspiration behind the 12 original songs on the second album from Fireside Collective. Truth be told, with one or two possible exceptions, it’s hard to hear why these songs couldn’t have been written without traveling. You might say that “Movin’ On Down That Line,” with its descriptions of wanting to get going, could come from packing in and out of gigs. And “Drivin’ Through The Rain” could easily be road-inspired. So, too, the girl you’re hoping to see when you get back “In From The Cold” or the Gold Rush imagery of “Dreams Of California.”

Of these 12 originals, nine of them are written by mandolinist Jesse Ianquinto and are very good. Good writing. Better melodies. Even better arrangements. A couple have an instant familiarity. Most notable is “Cabin Song,” based tune-wise on “Handsome Molly,” but ending the melodic line on a minor note that surprises every time. Similarly, “Dreams Of California,” has a strong feel of Jimmy Martin, though no one song specifically, but you keep searching to name it. The rest more or less stand on their own melodically. In all cases, the arrangements are stellar. There are a variety of styles from traditional bluegrass to funky, jazzy newgrass to Americana, and there are ear-catching rhythmic punctuations and shifts of mood and tempo, the best example being the down-gearing from a folkish, medium verse to slow, tortured country chorus on “In From The Cold.”

Behind all this is some truly fine musicianship. The instrumental leads are clean and crisp and imaginative, the supporting rhythms creative. The harmonies are fine as well. A little more care could be made here and there on the lead vocals, focusing on rhythmic placing of the wording, but not that much, and it certainly detracts little from a solid recording. (www.firesidecollectiveband.com)BW