The band Red Molly has received a great deal of positive attention the last few years, but I can’t say I’ve paid too much attention. I did buy their album James a few years back, and have quite enjoyed it the two or three times I’ve listened to it. Covers of “Gulf Coast Highway” and “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” are what initially attracted my attention, and the rest of the album sustained my interest. They have a song on there called “Black Flowers” that I quite like- listen to it and, if you know anything about me, you’ll figure out why- and “Can’t Let Go”- a Lucinda cover- is a fine way to end a disc.
They have a new album out, this one called The Red Album and I may not have noticed it had I not received an email announcing the release of a video for the song “Clinch River Blues.” I listened, and was again enamoured with the group. This is a good one, with a deep groove, a strong lead vocal presence and engaging harmonies, and the video is quite interesting to watch- it has an appealing mood.
The video to “Clinch River Blues” can be viewed via this link.
I’ve streamed parts of the new album- just haven’t had time to listen to the whole thing- and I think I’ll come back to it this weekend when I have some time. They cover Darrell Scott again, and perform a Mark Erelli song (“Pretend”) and also take on the “1952 Vincent Black Lightning,” as seemingly every folk and Americana artist has. I do like Red Molly’s style.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Please look around and I hope you find some music of interest. Donald
The Earl of Leicester had nothing to do with bluegrass music. But, The Earls of Leicester are most certainly bluegrass through and through. The ‘Earl’ refers to Scruggs and ‘Leicester’ is pronounced Lester, as in Flatt, and this six-piece band, whose performance at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival of a couple weekends ago I am currently streaming, is pretty darn exceptional. So is their debut album, released last month on Rounder Records.
The Earls of Leicester
The Earls of Leicester
A welcome breath of grassiness, The Earls of Leicester are not most obviously about innovation, ‘big tents’, or pushing the music forward. This bluegrass supergroup is all about celebrating and honouring the past, recreating the lively, engaging music of arguably bluegrass music’s greatest outfit—Flatt and Scruggs & the Foggy Mountain Boys—for the generations that never had the opportunity to experience their groundbreaking music during the band’s long run, 1948-1969.
The Earls of Leicester are, to use the words of founder Jerry Douglas, “an event band.” While the band may eventually progress beyond the current intent, for now and on the basis of their debut album, The Earls of Leicester are all about recreating the formative bluegrass music of Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs, and their Foggy Mountain Boys. And if you can’t get enough of digging holes for Darlin’ Corey, spending time in the calaboosh, dim lights, thick smoke, and corn shuckin’ there is plenty within these 38-minutes and 14 songs for you to find of interest.
Shawn Camp doesn’t attempt to replicate Lester Flatt’s relaxed, unforced style of bluegrass singing. Rather, Camp has found his own way of singing these songs that is comfortably within the parameters established by Flatt while maintaining his own personality. Listening to “On My Mind” and “Big Black Train,” one begins to feel that Camp has dug deep to find within himself a new way of singing, a new voice…one that is, in places, pleasingly similar to that of Flatt.
Douglas was greatly influenced by long-time Foggy Mountain Boy Uncle Josh Graves, and—no doubt, since it is his band—the Dobro is front and center on many of these songs, perhaps given a tinge more prominence in places than Flatt & Scruggs would have considered. On the whole, the arrangements of the songs and their performances are quite true to the originals recorded from the mid-50’s to the mid-60’s.
Tim O’Brien fills Curly Seckler’s shoes on this recording, and does an admirable job in recreating the clean mandolin playing of the period while reaching high on the tenor parts; when he steps up to the mic on “Dig A Hole in the Meadow,” it is evidence that some ‘warhorses’ should never be retired. Son of Foggy Mountain Boy fiddler Paul Warren, Johnny Warren takes care of all the fiddle parts, while Charlie Cushman has the unenviable responsibility of recreating Scruggs’ 5-string work. As expected, their performances are excellent, as are the contributions of Barry Bales, reigning and three-time IBMA bass player of the year.
Many of the songs and tunes most frequently associated with Flatt & Scruggs—”Rollin’ In My Sweet Baby’s Arms,” “Foggy Mountain Breakdown,” “Earl’s Breakdown,” and “Salty Dog Blues,” to name a few—are avoided in favour of some that may be less commonly heard on amateur stages. Great decision. Ditto, “Polka on the Banjo,” thankfully. Only four of the songs appear on The Essential Flatt & Scruggs while the Mercury recordings are entirely avoided. “The Wandering Boy and “I Don’t Care Anymore” are highlights, but so are the frequently encountered “Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down,” on which Warren contributes bass vocals, and “Dig A Hole in the Meadow.”
The recording appears flawless: the bottom end is appropriately heavy, Camp’s guitar notes ring true, the vocal stacking is precise, and the instrumental mix is stellar. It is one of the better sounding bluegrass albums I’ve recently experienced. Find a flaw, I dare ya!
If such matters are important to your listening pleasure, the only instrument on the album that couldn’t have appeared on a Flatt & Scruggs recording is O’Brien’s 1976 mandolin: the instruments range from 1929 and 1930 Gibson banjos to Paul Warren’s fiddle, used on Foggy Mountain Boy recording sessions.
By performing the music of Flatt & Scruggs in such an honest and true manner, The Earls of Leicester can’t help attract those not deeply familiar with these classic sounds but who are interested in acoustic, or jam band, folk, and bluegrass music. Therefore, it could be argued, The Earls of Leicester are all about pushing bluegrass music forward, expanding that ‘big tent’ that gets so much attention, and encouraging others to find innovation within the beautiful constraints of this wonderful—and timeless—music.
Tell me this isn’t the ugliest album cover you’ve seen on a major label bluegrass album this decade…
Through some miscommunication, I had thought that Country Standard Time had assigned me the new album from Lonesome River Band to review. Coincidentally, the same evening I submitted my review, Jeff over at CST was posting the review for the album he had actually assigned to a different writer. Jeff decided to post the two reviews together, and while Larry Stephens and I emphasized some differing elements, the two pieces of writing have quite a bit in common. You can find the reviews posted here.
Shari Ulrich, forgive me, is a legend in the Canadian folk world. I purchased her most recent album Everywhere I Go several weeks back and have listened to it repeatedly.
I’ve been quite negligent with the Roots Song of the Week since summer, but was inspired to post something today when I learned that Ulrich is in San Francisco this weekend performing as part of the High Bar Gang at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, select performances from which can be streamed. A great event HSB is, and someday I would love to get back there: I do find it ironic that Hardly Strictly goes the same weekend as the IBMA`s World of Bluegrass, all be they on other sides off the continent.
I don`t know if I`ve ever been a huge, `gotta` buy every album fan of Ulrich, but I`ve certainly always appreciated her. As did many, I most likely first heard her on Top 40 radio as a member of the Hometown Band singing “(Fear Of) Flying.“ Many years later I discovered the recordings of The Pied Pumpkin Ensemble and UHF, as well as her many solo recordings. Talk Around Town is a favourite.
Everywhere I Go is a quiet, but energetic recording comprised of several outstanding songs. Perhaps it is a coffeehouse record, but it is not something that just slips inattentively into the background. It grabs you and encourages you to search for meaning and comfort in its sounds. Quite beautiful.
She is up for a five (!) Canadian Folk Music Awards this year, including for Solo Artist of the Year and English Songwriter of the Year as well as a further three as a member of the High Bar Gang.
I`ve chosen to feature “Rain, Rain, Rain“ as my Roots Song of the Week today. It is definitely a song that deserves your attention, and Everywhere I Go does as well.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
For the evening’s final award:
ENTERTAINER OF THE YEAR
Balsam Range Blue Highway Dailey & Vincent The Gibson Brothers The Del McCoury Band
I haven’t seen a whole lot of live bluegrass during the past two years, so I’m going on past experience and ‘word-of’mouth’ in naming The Gibson Brothers as most deserving of this award. Without doubt, the nominated groups have large fanbases and are enthusiastically received most everywhere they go. I’ve considered the Del McCoury Band the pinnacle of bluegrass performance of a couple decades, but the Gibsons are just a wee bit fresher in my mind, a touch more relaxed than BH, and, having heard a couple live shows, they’ve never made me cringe or hang my head as D&V almost always do.
I wrote the above before tonight’s broadcast, and have to wonder if Balsam Range isn’t going to sneak in and dethrone the Gibson Brothers this time. This award tends to go to performers in spurts- the last two times to the Gibsons, three times to Dailey & Vincent, a couple times in a row to The Grascals, and a bunch of times to Del and ‘Em. The Gibsons may have ‘one’ more in them, but…with a few weeks hindsight and considering what else has happened tonight, wouldn’t be surprised if Balsam Range gets it.
And. Balsam Range is the IBMA Entertainer of the Year, 2014. Hopefully, Blueberry Bluegrass booked them for next year ’cause the price is rising, I’m thinking.
And that is the show, except for the finale which I am simply going to enjoy: no idea what it will be, but it is usually special.
Thanks for visiting at Fervor Coulee tonight. Please come back, and consider following me on Twitter. And thanks to Music City Roots for streaming the show; for those of us thousands of kilometres from the north.
No finale?? Seriously? Must have blown the budget on the cloggers!
The Del McCoury Band performs, bringing the show back to bluegrass!
Three awards to go. I’ve predicted six of the winners…which is pretty good, but I’ve been whiffing of late.
INSTRUMENTAL GROUP OF THE YEAR
Balsam Range Blue Highway The Boxcars The Del McCoury Band Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen
I think Balsam Range is poised to continue their ascension to the highest reaches of the bluegrass world. Of course, this award should go to AKUS and John Reischman & the Jaybirds in an annual rotation, but the voters saw things differently. Yes, I made the same comment for the Vocal Group award; I was right then, too. Wouldn’t be upset if DMB won.
Please recall, I did suggest Frank Solivan might sneak in at the mando award. I just picked the wrong award. Another surprise, but hard to argue with- a good band. I am a bit surprised that a band that is marginally ‘highbrow’ won such a significant award. May be a sign the bluegrass world is changing, again. Or, perhaps that it isn’t as closed minded as I think it is.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Hall of Fame Bluegrass – Junior Sisk and Joe Mullins (artist), Junior Sisk and Joe Mullins (producers), Rebel Records It’s Just A Road – The Boxcars (artist), The Boxcars (producer), Mountain Home Noam Pikelny Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe – Noam Pikelny (artist) Gabe Witcher (producer), Compass Records Streets of Baltimore – The Del McCoury Band (artist), Del McCoury (producer), McCoury Music The Game – Blue Highway (artist), Blue Highway (producer), Rounder Records
Worthy noms each, but of these five, Streets of Baltimore is the one I have listened to most consistently, and really, the only one I’ve listened to since reviewing. Noam Pikelny Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe was a very significant recording, and very enjoyable despite the ‘hard lifting’ its creation entailed, so I’d be okay with that, too.
And, the award goes to…the one with the hat! I think I might have called this one before Noam Pikelny Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe was even released. It had that X factor that gave it an edge. A great recording.
With Balsam Range now performing, if anyone wonders why Buddy Melton is the Male Vocalist of the Year, give a listen.
Thanks to everyone who is stopping by Fervor Coulee for a visit tonight; I see the user numbers climbing. When I first blogged about the IBMA Awards five or so years back, I don’t think it was streaming anywhere and you could only hear the broadcast via Sirius XM. Hundreds followed along as social media like Twitter twernt around to deliver the news immediately. Many choices now.
I think the live broadcast this year has been pretty good, my streaming problems aside. I don’t want to risk refreshing for fear of losing my space in the queue. Okay, risked it…and all is good, but I think I’m still several minutes behind.
The Seldom Scene now being inducted by Katy Daly and Chris Eldridge. A well-written, beautifully presented induction speech from Chris. I’m not sure if I agree that only the ‘original’ line-up of the Seldom Scene is being inducted. Well-deserved obviously, but…The Seldom Scene continues and has been going ‘forever.’ I would be comfortable with all the long-time members’ names being on the plaque. Still upset I missed my chance to meet Tom Gray when he was playing with Emmylou in Calgary about six or seven years ago.
Once again, the IBMA waits too long with Mike Auldridge’s passing last year. Good to hear all the Seldom Scene members together, performing their signature song “Wait a Minute.” (You know you’ve heard a song too many times when you can accurately guess the song just by listening to the band tune!) An excellent performance, in my opinion. The voices are magic. That were special! Lou Reid!
I’m a few seconds behind still, I think. O well. In memorial, now. Just reading the names, not all of whom were bluegrassers certainly. Would have been nice to see pictures of some of the departed. More important to remember them.
Joe Mullins and Dale Ann Bradley up to present:
GOSPEL RECORDED PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR
“Love Does” – Darin and Brooke Aldridge (artist), Flying (album), Jamie Johnson, Suzanne M. Johnson and Jenee Fleenor (writers), Darin and Brooke Aldridge (producers), Organic Record “The Day We Learn to Fly” – Volume Five (artist), The Day We Learn To Fly (album), Stacy Richardson and Leroy Drumm (writers), Volume Five (producers), Mountain Fever “Wait A Little Longer Please Jesus” – Donna Ulisse (artist), I Am a Child of God (album), Hazel Marie Houser (writer), Bryan Sutton and Donna Ulisse (producers), Hadley Music Group “When Sorrows Encompass Me Around” – The Boxcars (artist), It’s Just A Road (album), Paul Edgar Johnson (writer), The Boxcars (producer), Mountain Home “Won’t It Be Wonderful There” – Dailey & Vincent (artist), Brothers of the Highway (album), Mildred Styles Johnson (writer), Jamie Dailey and Darrin Vincent (producers), Rounder Records
Throw a dart…is my commentary. I don’t ‘like’ the heavy southern gospel influence that Dailey & Vincent bring to some of their recordings, but others obviously disagree.
SONG OF THE YEAR
“Dear Sister” – Claire Lynch (artist), Claire Lynch and Louisa Branscomb (writers) “Grandpa’s Way of Life” – The Spinney Brothers (artist), Mark ‘Brink’ Brinkman (writer) “It’s Just a Road” – The Boxcars (artist), William Keith Garrett (writer) “The Game” – Blue Highway (artist), Shawn Lane and Barry Bales (writers) “You Took All The Ramblin’ Out of Me” – The Boxcars (artist), Jerry Hubbard (writer)
My favourite songs usually don’t make it to the ballot. These are good songs, but I like the nostalgic washes “Grandpa’s Way of Life” evokes. Also, it is the only song of the five I can hum.
Turns out, folks like that Claire Lynch song. I don’t get it.