KOREY BRODSKY

KOREY-BRODSKYKOREY BRODSKY
CRUIZIN’

No Label
No Number

Korey Brodsky is a talented young flatpicking guitarist and mandolinist from New England who makes a strong debut with his first recording, Cruizin’. The title-track is one of four original compositions included here, and can best be described as a driving fiddle tune. “Dragonfly” and “Catching Grapes” are the sole tracks featuring his mandolin work, and have more of an easy loping quality.

By no means is this a guitar-centric recording. When Brodsky is not playing the mandolin, that chair is quite ably filled by Jesse Brock, with Ron Cody playing some fine banjo. Brodsky seems content to just be a part of the band that he has assembled, along with fiddler Kalia Yeagle and Rick Brodsky on bass.

Not every young musician gets to have a singer like Jonathan Edwards come in and reprise two of his older recordings, “Choices” and “Girl From The Canyon,” indicating that Brodsky has a sensitivity to supporting a good song. He also pays homage to the standards from a variety of traditions, ranging from bluegrass (“Big Sandy River”), swing (“Lady Be Good”) and, with a very understated solo guitar rendition, Celtic music (“Skye Boat Song”).

All in all, Cruizin’ is a nice showcase of a young talent with well-honed guitar chops and decent compositional skills. It also indicates his willingness to work within the context of a group and a song, and this CD should provide thirty minutes of evidence that we’ll be hearing much more of this fine player in the very near future. (facebook.com/thekoreybrodskyband)HK


HOG-EYED MAN

HOG-EYED-MANHOG-EYED MAN
3

Yodel-Ay-Hee 104

   Jason Cade won first place in fiddle at the prestigious Appalachian String Band Festival in Clifftop, W.Va., in 2016, and the two tunes he played in the finals are on this CD, “Buck Hoard” from Alva Green and “Old Hen She Cackled” from John Salyer. While those two powerful tunes feature Rob McMaken on banjo-uke on the first and Cade fiddling solo on the second, they are joined by John Grimm and Beverly Smith on many of the 16 tunes on this recording, the third from this band. On the opening cut, “Wiley Laws’ Tune,” Cade on fiddle and McMaken on mandolin are augmented by Grimm on banjo and Smith on guitar. Cade picks up the banjo on “Hello John D.” Cade and Grimm double fiddle on “Five Miles From Town.” On Osey Helton’s “Rocky Road To Dublin” Cade, Grimm, and Smith all fiddle while McMaken plays dulcimer. The one waltz included is “My Heart’s In The Highlands.”

Great music, and particularly great fiddling, is a seamless fusion of rhythm and melody which has the power to reach deep inside us and inspire strong emotional responses. Cade’s fiddling does that to full effect, and the other players deftly enhance it. “Vance No More” has the plaintive fiddle floating over the solid base of the dulcimer. We get to hear vocals on an unusual and appealing version of “Bile Them Cabbage Down” from Byard Ray, on “Shady Grove” (note the nine beats in the A part), and on “Hog-eyed Man.” The final tune features the foursome in a full string band version of “Big-Footed Man” from Wiley Laws, Osey Helton, and Manco Sneed.

Even when you think you know a tune from its name, more often than not, you may be surprised at the versions here. There is gold and platinum and plenty of diamonds to mine from this recording, which has this reviewer’s highest recommendation. It’s a masterpiece. (Yodel-Ay-Hee Records, 107 Ingle Rd., Asheville, NC 28804, hogeyedman.reverbnation.com.)SAG


JEFF BROWN & STILL LONESOME

JEFF-BROWNJEFF BROWN & STILL LONESOME
A DISTANT HORIZON

Union House Records
UHR—0002

Jeff Brown & Still Lonesome come from Cedar Bluff, Va., and bring with them a sound mixing traditional, straight-ahead bluegrass with contemporary flourishes. Some songs are cast in the traditional mode. Some are more contemporary. Most blend the two. Jeff Brown is the lead singer and guitarist, taking some very nice leads, particularly on the fast moving “Kentucky Mandolin.” His singing is a soft, mid-range baritone, sort of thoughtful and pensive, a good match for the modal type of songs the band favors. Being in that range also gives him a good sound when the song has a major-key sound, as on “Let Come And Go What May.”

The rest of the band includes Austin Brown on bass and some lead and rhythm guitar, Kyle Murphy on fiddle, Nick Goad on vocals and mandolin, and Mitch Walker on vocals and banjo. Several guests, including Wayne Taylor and Adam Haynes, chip in here and there. Nothing but good can be said of all their contributions. There is a high degree of polish and poise from all concerned. Solos are sharp. The rhythms and support are tight.

The songs touch on most of the common themes of bluegrass. We’re offered a love song (“A Better Game”), a longing song (“Back Home In Tennessee”), love of region songs (“Soul Of A Mountain Man” and “Appalachia Is My Name”), a Civil War song (“A Distant Horizon”), and a miner/work song (“What A Man Has To Do”). Individually, they come off well. As a whole, a few less in the “modal” feel might have worked a bit better. Had there been a few more upbeat, positive songs in the style of “You Ask Me To,” this good record would have rated a notch higher. (www.jeffbrownandstilllonesome.com)BW


CORRINA ROSE LOGSTON

CORRINA-ROSECORRINA ROSE LOGSTON
BLUEGRASS FIDDLER

Patuxent Music
CD-278

I was listening recently to some of my old vinyl recordings, including a cluster of albums by the great fiddlers Kenny Baker and Byron Berline. They were distinguished by a consistently high level of sweet and proficient fiddling, a wide-ranging assortment of interesting tunes, and support from a talented array of pickers whose collective focus was on playing great tunes and playing them well.

It’s nice to report that the new release by fiddler Corrina Rose Logston, the latest in the seemingly endless procession of gifted young musicians being recorded by Tom Mindte for Patuxent Records, leaves the same impression on the ear. Simply and aptly entitled Bluegrass Fiddler, this CD features 14 tracks that allow her to display her chops without eclipsing the beauty of the tunes she plays.

She skillfully finds a balance between familiar and obscure material. “Highlander’s Farewell,” “Soppin’ The Gravy,” and “Snowflake Breakdown” (often referred to as “Snowflake Reel”) are as close as she comes to covering instrumental standard repertoire. Among the more novel tunes she’s recorded are traditional numbers such as “Wilson’s Hornpipe” and “Laughing Boy,” but perhaps more importantly her two original contributions, “Honeycat Hornpipe” and “Sandridge,” easily stand their ground among the older tunes.

While packaged as a fiddler’s album, Logston generously shares the spotlight with a fine cast of supportive pickers. Banjoist Kurt Stephenson, guitarist Jeremy Stephens, mandolinists David McLaughlin and Casey Campbell, and bassist P.J. George all sound like they’re equally committed to helping to make the tunes and the fiddler shine. And breaking up the parade of mid- to up-tempo fiddle tunes is a pair of vocals, “Foggy Mountain Top” and “I Don’t Blame You,” on which she shows her solid singing skills, plus a pair of waltzes, “Whispering Hope” and “Junior Jump Waltz.”

Corrina Rose Logston has released a debut recording that honors the many great fiddlers who have influenced her and others. (Patuxent Music, P.O. Box 572, Rockville, MD 20848, www.pxrec.com.)HK


EXERCISES FOR THREE-FINGER BANJO

EXERCISES FOR THREE-FINGER BANJO
BY JACK HATFIELD

Mel Bay MB99783.
(Mel Bay, #4 Industrial Dr., Pacific, MO 63069, www.melbay.com.)

 

This is a book for the serious banjo player. It’s full of techniques for both hands on the banjo and good advice to everyone wanting to be a better three-finger banjo player. Subtitled Drills In Scruggs, Single String And Melodic Styles, this book is all of that and a lot more. Hatfield stresses that you have to be in good physical shape as well as mental shape to excel at banjo. Meaning: the better you treat yourself using exercises and generally developing mental acuity, the better you will be able to maximize your potential on the banjo.

The first part of the book is geared to relating to your banjo and becoming more comfortable with it. From there, he gets into tabbed exercising and the importance of timing and using a metronome to keep you honest about how well you’re doing in this area. All through the book, music theory is discussed, if not quite called that with its focus on chord progressions, chord inversion positions, and scales.

The second part of the book focuses on defining the three-finger-style with Scruggs rolls, timing exercises, and left-hand techniques to get the best tone and speed. There is a full discussion of left-hand techniques, many that rarely make it to banjo books, but are exactly what the great players are doing. Drills for scales in single string and melodic styles are covered thoroughly.

The last page of the book talks about mental exercises that define playing with intention and intelligence. A comprehensive book is common for classical and jazz players. As the banjo has moved to ever expanding musical horizons, this book will provide the tools required for that level of accomplishment. This is a must-have volume for the serious banjo player who wants to push the perceived limits of the banjo.RCB


DARIN AND BROOKE ALDRIDGE

DARIN-&-BROOKEDARIN AND BROOKE ALDRIDGE
FASTER AND FARTHER

Mountain Home
MH16642

Eight years into their career—and their marriage—North Carolinians Darin and Brooke Aldridge have established themselves as rising stars on the bluegrass gospel scene. Their new album, as its title suggests, seems destined to speed their ascendance. Faster And Farther showcases not just Brooke’s remarkable vocal prowess,  but also Darin’s all-around polish and confidence as a producer, singer, and multi-instrumentalist—talents that he honed during his long stint with The Country Gentlemen.

Though the Aldridges co-produced the album, it’s also clearly a collaboration with two other powerhouse talents: John Cowan and Pat Flynn, both alumni of the mythical New Grass Revival. Cowan, a world class singer in his own right, co-wrote two of the standout songs here (“This River” and “Cumberland Plateau”) and contributes vocals and electric bass on these and additional tracks. Flynn wrote and plays guitar on two songs (“Kingdom Come,” the tour de force opening cut, and the irresistible “Lila”) and plays on additional tracks.

The song choices here are unimpeachable, and the contributions of two remarkable writers, in particular, are vividly heard. Carl Jackson penned the heartfelt ships-passing-in-the-night ballad “Eugene And Diane” and co-wrote (with James Rushing) “Highway Of Heartache.” Lisa Shaffer also contributed a pair of gems: “Mountains In Mississippi” (co-written with Dennis Duff and Jenee Fleenor) and “Still Falling” (co-written with Dennis Duff).

The linchpin throughout is, of course, Brooke’s exquisite voice. She’s simply one of the best and has never sounded more powerful, poised, and persuasive than she does here. (Mountain Home Music, P.O. Box 829, Arden, NC 28704, www.mountainhomemusiccompany.com.) BA


MICHAEL AND JENNIFER McLAIN

MICHAEL-&-JENNIFER-McLAINMICHAEL AND JENNIFER McLAIN
HIT THE ROAD AND GO

No Label
No Number

One airing of this new recording from Michael and Jennifer McLain and you’ll know the aim is one of an older vintage. Any resemblance to contemporary bluegrass is so thin as to be wraith-like. Maybe you hear a bit on the start of “Boom Town,” but that’s about it. That’s not to say that this is an album in the style of the ancient (i.e., the ’50s or ’60s), but it definitely has that soft, gentle and direct approach of the late 1960s and early1970s.

Melody and tunefulness is key here. So are the steady rhythms start to finish, light on sudden injections of jagged punctuations, though an occasional stop-time idea creeps in here or there, and light on those watery pastiches so common today. You hear touches of country gospel on the secular “This Old Heart (Is Gonna Rise Again)” and on the gospel of “Jesus, Hold My Hand.” And you hear slow, bluesy inflections on the lovely “Do I Ever Cross Your Mind,” and those propulsive “movin’ on” rhythms on “Restless” and Merle Watson’s “Southbound.”

Leading all this is the strong interplay of guitarist, banjoist Michael McLain and fiddler Dan Kelly. McLain sings lead on “Southbound,” but largely he’s the instrumental force with his straight guitar leads and his melodic banjo work. Kelly’s fiddle is equally tuneful and well-considered. Stacked atop all that and the bass of Mike Bub and  mandolin of Ronnie McCoury, is the lead vocalizing of Jennifer McLain. Her’s is a wide-ranging voice, country predominantly, but certainly blues and gospel tinted. Hear her excellent rendition of the bluesy standard “Up This Hill And Down” taken over closed-chord, sock guitar rhythm. That’s representative of this whole fun and highly listenable recording. And, for fun, hear Michael and Jennifer’s twin banjo cover of the classic “Lady Of Spain.”(www.banjocats.com)BW


CAUGHT IN THE RAIN

CASCADE-CRESENDO
CASCADE CRESCENDO
CAUGHT IN THE RAIN

No Label
No Number

Cascade Crescendo’s name honors the majestic Cascade Range of the Pacific Northwest including Oregon, and this Portland-based group’s impressive debut album proves yet again that you don’t have to hail from the Appalachian or Blue Ridge Mountains to create heartfelt, exciting bluegrass.

This is a self-described Americana bluegrass jam band. There are many examples of extended flights of instrumental jamgrass fancy, with an accent on modern sounds and creative songwriting. But there’s percolating bluegrass picking, too, and the original songs are as thoughtful as the instrumental arrangements, with no gratuitous notes or lyrics. (All the numbers here were written by the band, except for a disarming bluegrass adaptation of “Disarm” by Billy Corgan of the alt-rock band Smashing Pumpkins.) Indeed, the band shifts tempos and moods as smoothly as “Old Charlie Rose,” a trucker in one of its touching originals, shifting gears while winding through the Oregon hills.

The lineup is Hunter White (guitar and lead vocals), Aden Beck (mandolin), Taylor Skiles (bass), and Harrison Olk (banjo). Guesting to great effect on five tracks is fiddler Allie Kral (Yonder Mountain String Band). Hearing the band inspired, even on fire, in “Midnight Sun” is a joy. That song, referencing the long summers of the higher Northern latitudes, is one of many examples of how Cascade Crescendo starts with Southern traditions, then draws on its own Pacific Northwest for inspiration and celebration. “Life Goes On” sounds like a true song. No wonder bluegrass has proven such a versatile and universal genre.

“Epic Journey,” with its clever lyrics about life and its sweet confusions, must be a huge favorite at the band’s gigs. But like the entire album, the number translates perfectly to a non-show recording. Drummer Nick Werth appears on the finale selection, “Big H Blues.” This gently rolling number is reminiscent of songs that Herb Pedersen contributed to The Dillards when he was in that band, and it contains the album’s title lyrics, caught in the rain. Although it quotes lyrically  from the jug band standard “Hesitation Blues,” its wistful poetry also references the victims of a bigger “H,” the nationwide heroin epidemic: Their pockets are full of balloons / but they sink to the ground. It’s a thoughtful ending to an impressively realized and attractively packaged album. The whole team did themselves proud, from the band and guests to executive producer Jim Lesperance, producer/engineer Avi Brown and cover artist Brie Thompson. The band is reportedly planning a 2017 tour. I hope they carry along many copies of Caught In The Rain. They shouldn’t be caught without them. (www.cascadecrescendo.com )RDS


BLUE MAFIA, HANGING TREE

BLUE-MAFIABLUE MAFIA
HANGING TREE

Pinecastle Records
PRC1202

After the dark comes the light. Blue Mafia has been self-described as “dark” and “bloody” and “dirty” and, in reviews, as “edgy.” Listening to their first two recordings confirms such. Now comes their third and, while much of that dark and edgy quality is still front and center, most notably on the slow coal worker’s song “Like A Mining Man” and on “Hanging Tree,” which came from the film The Hunger Games, there is a ray of lightness and hope beginning to emerge.

Tunes such as “Sweet Mary Of The Mountains,” about a rambler caught by love and forced to settle down, and the rippling backing and descending melody line of Dara Wray’s “You Belong With Me” stand in sharp contrast. For every “Loneliness & Desperation,” once made popular by Del and The Boys, or the remake of the Stanleys’ “Say Won’t You Be Mine,” there’s a tuneful tune such as “Midnight Rain,” sung by fiddler Kent Todd, or the slow and airy Wray original, “Life.” In fact, the recording even ends on a rather positive, somewhat light tune, “Who Are You.” Now don’t be frightened by all this “light” talk. There is plenty of darkness to go around.

The other change to the group is that Cody Looper has turned over his banjo job to Calib Smith. He doesn’t miss a beat, being very much a driver with a healthy dose of melodic style mixed in. And he brought in the aforementioned “Like A Mining Man.” Otherwise, it is pretty much business as usual with Blue Mafia. Tony Wray is still one of the hidden gems of lead guitar (and mandolin and banjo). The pulse from bassist Michael Gregory is every bit as solid. The harmonies are still fascinating, and Kent Todd still alternates on lead vocals with Dara, both sounding excellent. In short, they’re still making great music. (www.bluemafiaband.com)BW


THE INFAMOUS STRINGDUSTERS

THE INFAMOUS STRINGDUSTERS
LAWS OF GRAVITY

Compass Records
746782

Combining an infusion of superb musicianship, clever songwriting, and intricate arrangements, The Stringdusters have once again produced another project of their approach to modern bluegrass. This seventh release features the band’s current lineup: Andy Hall on resonator guitar, Andy Falco on guitar, Chris Pandolfi on banjo, Jeremy Garrett on fiddle, and Travis Book on bass. Falco also contributed piano and percussion on some cuts.

Their sound is both traditional yet modern with lots of banjo and fiddle, but also with rhythmic changes and progressive elements of bluegrass and Americana. About half the songs were written by the band, and they also collaborated with other writers such as Becky Buller, Jon Weisberger, Josh Shilling, Sarah Siskind, and others.

The project kicks off with a traditional sounding “Freedom” co-written with Becky Buller. The other more traditional bluegrass selections include “1901: A Canyon Odyssey” co-written with Travis McKeveny, and “A Hard Life Makes A Good Song” co-written with Jon Weisberger. “Vertigo,” co-written with Athena Desai, has a more modern feel, while “This Ol’ Building” has a somewhat gospel quality. Other collaborations include “Maxwell” and “Gravity” (Sarah Siskind) and “I Run To You” (Josh Shilling). There is also the country-flavored “Back Home” and the two darker offerings of “Maxwell” and “Black Elk.” And with talent like this, who could pass up the inclusion of a stellar instrumental, so they give you “Sirens.” This release proves that this awarding-winning and Grammy-nominated ensemble keeps getting better and more inventive, while still maintaining the roots from which bluegrass music grows. (www.thestringdusters.com)BF


THE SAVAGE HEARTS

SAVAGE-HEARTSTHE SAVAGE HEARTS
PLAYING IT FORWARD

No Label
AS001

This is an interesting program of tunes and songs drawing from wide-ranging sources including Jim Croce, Bob Wills, and Tim O’Brien with a nod to Latin music with “Compadres In The Old Sierra Madres” and a Puerto Rican melody, “El Combanchero.” On their website, they call this Southwestern bluegrass. Whatever you call it , it’s fun. Bandmember Kevin Slick adds a pair of fine originals to the mix that also includes some Celtic and old-time tunes.

The vocals are all strong and owe more to Western Swing than bluegrass, with fine harmonies throughout the project. Their take on “Working On A Building”/“Old Time Religion” blends two old sacred numbers in a new way that captures a nice vibe. Savage’s lead vocal on this cut is extraordinary. They bring a solid new ’grass reading to Malcolm McKinney’s gem “Don’t Cry Blue.” A somewhat sedate, but respectful version of “Ragtime Annie” displays the oft neglected third part in the key of G ending with some choice twin fiddling.

Through 11 songs and tunes this band shows off the expansive range of their music. While not all bluegrass, it’s all very good. This is a fine recording of interesting material played with great flare and panache. They feature some very talented guests: Becky Buller, Jeff Scroggins, Greg Blake, and Ellie Hakanson. Annie Savage fiddles up a storm while her bandmate Kevin Slick plays a range of instruments and Kit Simon holds down the resonator guitar and guitar roles. Everyone sings except Bianca Bentz, who holds it all together with her fine bass playing. (www.savagehearts.com)RCB


HEIDI AND RYAN

HEIDI&RYANHEIDI AND RYAN

Mountain Fever
MFR161202

Where a standard secular bluegrass recording often includes a gospel tune, the Mountain Fever debut from Heidi and Ryan sort of reverses that pattern. This is a gospel recording, but among the eleven tracks are four secular songs. The album opens with “Grandma’s Knee,” a tune that alternates short, lurching phrases with longer complex lines and sections of pedal-like sustain. Memories of time with Grandma are its heart and very well done. A bit later, they offer a similar memory song called “Pictures,” this one slow and more dreamlike. That’s followed by “Sometimes Love Hurts,” also slow. Here, the idea is doing what’s right even without reward. The one secular song that falls outside the lines, and not by much really, is a very good cover of the funky and twisty Little Feat tune, “Oh, Atlanta.”

The gospel tunes, with the exception of a traditional rendering of Doyle Lawson’s “There’s A Fire Down Yonder,” performed in contemporary stylings, are often slow and textured. Two of the best are “Come To Jesus,” which has a slow, ethereal quality with lots of space between words and phrases, making it mesmerizing, and “Money Won’t,” a gospel number that catalogues a ’50s pop feel; all the things money won’t do for you, including save you when you’re called home.

Offering these songs and bringing a spark to them are the husband-and-wife team of Heidi and Ryan Greer. Heidi handles all but one of the lead vocals, doing so with a flexible voice that is predominantly velvety and soft, but powerful when needed. Ryan supports her with creative guitar work and sings lead on his original, “Sowing Seeds.” They are backed by Aaron Ramsey, Jeff Partin, Tim Crouch, Ron Stewart, and Matt Cromer.(www.heidiandryanmusic.com)BW


JOIN THE JAM! A METHOD FOR JAMMING OF TRADITIONAL STRING PLAYERS

JOIN THE JAM! A METHOD FOR JAMMING OF TRADITIONAL STRING PLAYERS
BY ANNIE SAVAGE.

(www.savagefiddler.com)

This new book by Savage dissects what part the fiddle plays in bluegrass. It breaks down songs and tunes, using licks and passing tones to dress up simple melodies. She uses the term “Tech Check” for each lesson presented. There is online audio available for each lesson.

The book goes through some well-known songs like “Gold Watch And Chain,” “Paradise,” and “Nine Pound Hammer,” plus several more where she introduces passing tones and an assortment of licks to dress up your arrangements. She covers “chopped double-stops” and blues scales, major and minor arpeggios. She then looks at tunes that reveal how arpeggios work in melodies and in twin fiddling. She goes into “Chording On Your String Instrument,” which is actually a list of double-stops that can be used in eight different keys. She uses the old chestnut “Ragtime Annie” as an example of playing the “Georgia Shuffle” while twin fiddling. The last piece covered in the book is an orchestral arrangement of “Angeline The Baker” for two violins, viola, cello, and bass.

The layout is clean and easy to read, and the spiral binding is a real advantage. For the reading student of the fiddle trying to get an idea on how to take breaks and do backup, this book has some good information. There is a good amount of worthwhile material in this rather slim book. The scope of this book is as a tool to help those who read to get off of the printed page and into the world of fiddle music. To that end, this is a good springboard.RCB


THE LONESOME ACE STRINGBAND

lonesome-ace-stringbandTHE LONESOME ACE STRINGBAND
GONE FOR EVERMORE

No Label
No Number

The second outing for this Toronto old-time trio—Chris Coole on clawhammer banjo, Max Heineman on bass, and John Showman on fiddle (all three sing)—opens with an original tune by Showman, “The Hucklebuck,” a wild romp fueled by their energy and musicianship. Aside from “Mad As A Hornet” by Snake Chapman and “Let Him Go On Mama” by John Hartford, the other eight pieces are all traditional, beginning with “Saro Jane” from Uncle Dave Macon; they also have “Going Across The Sea” from Uncle Dave. Their “Cotton-Eyed Joe,” though, has a feel which is both contemporary and minor. “Old Paint” derives from Bruce Molsky’s version, “Hold On” from Dwight Diller, “The Boatman” from Dan Gellert, “Across The Rocky Mountains” from Roscoe Holcomb, and “Nancy” from John Salyer’s “Nancy Blevins.”

All of their arrangements fit together like fingers in a well-worn and comfortable glove. “Mad As A Hornet” starts slowly and then, suddenly, the enraged hornet flits around at full speed. “Hold On,” also known as “Keep Your Hand On The Plow,” blends very traditional singing with fiddle chords which sound ready to jump out of the furrows. That tension is characteristic of this band and adds depth to its music. “Nancy (Till the Tape Runs Out)” is where they release that tension to the full extent and come to a full circle of wildness under control. They may be gone for evermore, but it’s a listening trip many of us will enjoy taking. (www.lonesomeacestringband.com)SAG


EAST OF MONROE

EAST-OF-MONROEEAST OF MONROE
BY THE RIVER’S EDGE

Pennywill Music
PM 1001

This is a mellow affair; three songwriters singing their own songs and some choice selections from others, dressed in great harmonies and sublime picking, making this a rich listening experience. There are eight musicians on this project. Gary Alan Ferguson sings and plays mandolin and guitar. Jackie Frost sings and plays guitar, Lisa Kay Howard sings and plays mandolin. Wally Hughes sings and adds fiddle, while Dave Giegerich plays resonator guitar. Terry Witten plays banjo and sings, Billy Budd plays bass. Emily Timberlake sings and contributed some of the tunes.

The tempo here is on the mellow side, with introspective songs about love lost and things gone astray. Ferguson wrote half of the songs and they feature his lead vocals. They have a folk-influenced pop feel. Timberlake wrote and sings three of the songs. There are tunes from Patty Griffith, (“When It Don’t Come Easy”), Richard Ward (“A New Song”), and Charlie Shavers and Sid Robin (“Undecided”), all sung by Jackie Frost.

Timberlake’s “Goodbye Letter” peps up the proceedings, but this project never rounds into overdrive. It moves along nicely with good vocals and solid breaks in strong arrangements. Her breathy vocals on her song “Lying Awake At Night” catches the midnight angst of a sleepless night. A hard-driving traditional song would not have hurt the mix. We get close to that old-time bluegrass drive on Ferguson’s “Too Many Nights,” but this is really a songwriter showcase.

For bands looking for new material, or folks who just like that medium-tempo ’grass, this recording falls easy on the ear. The songs have good hooks and masterful presentation. (www.eastofmonroe.com)RCB


SIDELINE

SIDELINESIDELINE
COLORS AND CROSSROADS

Mountain Fever
MFR161111

The liner notes to the new release from Sideline say there are four lead singers scattered throughout: Steve Dilling, Brian Aldridge, Skip Cherryholmes, and Brad Hudson. What the notes don’t say is who sings which tune. To be honest, I don’t know them well enough to hazard a guess. One is high and lonesome, another is low and sort of gravelly, another is in between. Let’s put it this way; they all sound very good and that includes Dudley Connell, who makes a guest appearance singing the standard “Unwanted Love.”

The mix of songs is nicely varied. They range from strongly traditional to contemporary. At the traditional end are “Are You Waiting Just For Me,” “You Don’t Know What You Got Till It’s Gone,” the gospel of “Lord Of All Men” and Del McCoury’s “This Kind Of Life.” At the modern end are the guitar-driven and introspective gospel of “I Believe” and the achingly beautiful “Colors And Crossroads.” The latter is one of the standouts on the album, a fine piece of writing by Brink Brinkman and a fine performance from Sideline. Chris Jones’ “Uphill Climb” is a fast, semi-traditional sounding tune full of pop and heavy bass from Jason Moore. Also in that middle ground is the country weeper “The Blame,” all slow and swaying, along with a rewrite of “Darlin’ Corey,” given a blend of clawhammer and some modern twists. “Beggar In Heaven,” sung by the lower, gravelly voice, is also well worth a listen.

What’s truly impressive is how easily the band, which also includes fiddler Nathan Aldridge, moves from one style to the next, not just replicating it, but truly inhabiting it. One need only compare the McCoury song “This Kind Of Life” to the title song to see what I mean. A winning performance however they choose to play it. (www.sidelinebg.com)BW