Archive for the ‘Sugar Hill Records’ Tag
Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson “Wreck & Ruin” Sugar Hill Records
“Wreck & Ruin” is the second collection of songs from the Australian husband and wife team of Shane Nicholson and Kasey Chambers.
Chambers needs little introduction to Americana listeners. Over the past dozen years, the youthful sounding songstress, still only in her mid-thirties, has released a series of albums ranging in quality from exceptional (the debut The Captain and last year’s Little Bird) to middlin’ (Wayard Angel). Her voice is unmistakable, a vulnerable twang somewhere between Rachel Sweet and Elizabeth Cook. Like Cook, she isn’t in a hurry to get through any song- each note, each inflection purposefully placed to positive effect.
Nicholson is less known to North American types although he has had a long career in his home country. His “Bad Machines” was named the Austalasian Performing Rights Association Song of the Year in 2011, and he has been repeatedly nominated for various awards in his homeland.
The duo swap leads and harmony throughout this interest-maintaining set of thirteen tracks. While the production values are high- there are no refrigerators heard humming in the background, nor dog barks punctuating a ballad- the album feels relaxed, as if it were recorded in a cozy front room, by friends sharing a bottle of wine.
Some songs contain lyrics that just have to be stolen from lost mountain songbooks, or at least from Gillian Welch`s satchel. “Have Mercy on Me,” which appears late in the set, opens with the evocative phrase, “When the angels come from the heavens above, pick me up on a white-winged dove; I could trade it all if you asked me to, take the green, take the red, the white and the blue.” I’m not necessarily aware of what it all means, but it sure sounds pretty.
“Flat Nail Joe” reminds this listener both of an old Roger Miller song and Steve Earle`s “Telephone Road” a tri-sided compliment if there ever was one. There are a couple spots that feel like filler- the still-enjoyable studio frivolity of “Sick as a Dog,” for one, on which Chambers does her best June Carter- but these are certainly balanced by moments of brilliant clarity, such as “Troubled Mind,” the album`s closing track. The title track is another highlight.
One of the elements that strengthens the album is its brevity; the album cuts through at 34 minutes and most songs clock-in at under three, giving things a mid-sixties, Harlan Howard approach that is much appreciated. Another is the generous amount of banjo and fiddle throughout.
The album isn’t all that different from Rattlin’ Bones, the 2008 album that marked the first extended collaboration by Chambers and Nicholson. That album’s songs may have been a touch stronger, if one can be so bold to assess such things. I’m not confident that there is a song within Wreck & Ruin as powerful as either “Once in A While” or “Sweetest Waste of Time” although “The Quiet Life” comes close. However, Wreck & Ruin is a warmer album, something you may find yourself coming back to re-explore throughout the depths of this winter.
Finally, don’t mistake this album for a Kasey Chambers project simply featuring her husband. As on Rattlin’ Bones, Nicholson is as important to this album as his more familiar spouse. His voice isn’t as distinctive as Chambers’, but few are and it doesn’t need to be; in fact, to use the most over-utilized comparison in roots music, if Nicholson is to Chambers what Parsons was to Harris- vocally that is- well, that isn’t such a bad thing.
As always, thanks to the labels that continue to service me, and thanks to you for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
My review of Kathy Mattea’s latest is up at Country Standard Time, http://www.countrystandardtime.com/d/cdreview.asp?xid=4854. Very enjoyable; I see a Grammy nom in her future.
My review of the new Don Williams album has been posted to the Lonesome Road Review: http://lonesomeroadreview.com/2012/07/07/and-so-it-goes-by-don-williams/
Marty Stuart Nashville, Volume 1: Tear the Woodpile Down Sugar Hill
For a few years during the early nineties, Marty Stuart was a prominent fixture of New Country. By then a veteran of 20-plus years in the business- first as a bluegrass sideman with Lester Flatt and Curly Seckler, then as part of Johnny Cash’s band, and finally out on his own- Stuart was never blessed with more than a passable voice: calling it ‘thin’ may be giving it more credit than it deserves. Rather, his career has been forged from flair, personality, and a deep-rooted understanding of and respect for the traditions of country music.
Despite his success during the country video heyday, Stuart never had a number one song or album and had only a single top 5 song of his own (1991’s “Tempted”) although he went to number 2 the same year with Travis Tritt and “The Whiskey Ain’t Workin’.” Still, he hit the top 10 a half-dozen times, filled medium-sized venues, was (and is) a festival favourite, and had a few gold albums. Interestingly, Stuart consistently charted better in Canada than he did south of the border.
As his black pompadour faded with gray, so did the Marty Party. While his albums and songs performed increasingly poorly on the charts, Stuart’s critical acclaim didn’t suffer and his last few releases, notably 2010’2 Ghost Train: The Studio B Sessions, have been among the most favourably reviewed of his thirty-year recording career.
Stuart celebrates forty years in Nashville with Tear the Woodpile Down, an album that goes a long way to prove his slightly exaggerated assertion that “Today, the most outlaw thing you can possibly do in Nashville, Tennessee is play country music.” While the industry may have lost its way, with no fewer than seventeen albums under his bedazzled belt, Stuart knows well what it takes to create country music- strong, sometimes sentimental, material, inventive musicianship, a bit of trouble in mind and just a dab o’ polish.
Along with his Fabulous Superlatives and a few guests, Stuart has created another outstanding album. Over a chugging rockabilly beat, honky tonk chords are punctuated by weeping steel guitar. Tear the Woodpile Down is less ambitious than some of his other albums, but with ‘classic country’ sounds serving as its unifying theme the disc soars.
On the title track, Stuart captures the mood of much of his country when he sings, “Taxpayer dollar ain’t worth a dime, governments got us in a bind.” While the album isn’t politically motivated, Stuart- who wrote the majority of its songs- touches on events and moods that should resonate with country music’s base.
“Truck Driver Blues” is essentially “Hillbilly Rock” reset in an 18-wheeler, and on “Going, Going, Gone” Stuart gets in touch with his inner Merle (and George, Stonewall and Buck).
“Sundown in Nashville” captures the loneliness and heartbreak of those trying to make it in “a country boy’s Hollywood.” The guitars of Kenny Vaughn and Paul Martin ring throughout most of the album’s ten songs. Both “A Matter of Time” and “The Lonely Kind” are more subtle, countrypolitan performances that find Stuart and his band at their best.
Connections to legends are apparent. Porter and Dolly’s 1968 hit “Holding on to Nothing” gets a stylish rendering. Lorrie Carter Bennett sings with Stuart on “A Song of Sadness” and Hank III drops by to close things out acoustically on his grandfather’s “Picture From Life’s Other Side.”
Too brief at just over 30 minutes, Tear the Woodpile Down brings with it promise that Marty Stuart is going to continue to make the music he wants to create no matter how far it takes him from the charts.
Originally published in the Red Deer Advocate, May 04, 2012
Kasey Chambers Little Bird Sugar Hill
Over several months during 2001, I became aware of Kasey Chambers. First was a chance listen on the radio, a snippet of voice and sound that blended perfectly within the vibrant Americana sounds of the day while being so original, so unusual, that one noticed and asked, “Who is that?”
Then came a second and third fortuitous encounter, eventually leading to some research to find out who was singing:
“And you be the Captain, and I’ll be no one
And you can carry me away if you want to,
and you can lay low,
Just like your father and if
I tread upon your feet you just say so,
‘Cos you’re the Captain, I am no one,
I tend to feel as though I owe one to you.”
I listened to a lot of Kasey Chambers over the next couple years, covers found on the Internet, The Captain album and its follow-up Barricades & Brickwalls. I was intrigued by the repeated connections to Fred Eaglesmith- she covered both “Freight Train” and “Water in the Fuel”- and Paul Kelly, as well as her penchant for Gram Parsons’ songs. Of course, there was that voice- somewhere between Rachel Sweet and Emmylou Harris circa 1978 and yet wholly unlike anything I had heard before- fresh and bold, plaintive and yet as warm as a cinnamon bun and just as fragrant.
But, strangely, I couldn’t get past those first couple albums and onto those that followed. While I purchased both The Captain and Barricades & Brickwalls, and listened to them a great deal, I never sought our either Wayward Angel or Carnival and I’m not sure if I ever noticed any of the songs from those albums. Either I lost interest in what she was doing or I became so overwhelmed by other music that I didn’t notice when they came out.
Still, following the positive words read about Rattlin’ Bones, her stripped down 2008 collaboration with spouse Shane Nicholson, I did buy that one and it became one of my favourite albums of that year. When I found an import copy of her latest release Little Bird early this past spring, I hesitated only momentarily before paying the hefty ticket price. I wasn’t disappointed then and those positive vibes remained through several more listens throughout the summer.
Little Bird received its North American release this past July and Sugar Hill was kind enough to send a copy my direction. I suppose I’ve been more than a little negligent in sharing my thoughts about the disc. I’ll try to correct that today.
Recorded in early 2010, Little Bird features 14 tracks (when the brief, hidden song appended to the album is included) recorded with a fairly consistent core band and several guest (mostly backing) vocalists of which only Patty Griffin’s name means anything to me.
One reviewer I recently read attempted to link Chambers with Taylor Swift, a connection that is lost on me mostly because I wouldn’t know a Swift song if I heard it. There is a healthy dose of pop/rock influence in Chambers’ music, but it isn’t overbearing; the spirit of country and folk is alive and apparent in every song Chambers writes and every note she sings. Folks expecting anything more than fleeting connections to Lady Antebellum, The Band Perry, or Sugarland need to look elsewhere.
To my ears, Chambers’ sound hasn’t changed too much in the decade since I first heard her singing songs like “The Hard Way” and “Cry Like a Baby.” She sounds older, as she should (duh!), but also wiser, more realistic but every bit as vulnerable. This assuredness comes through plainly in the confidence- not to be mistaken for bitchiness or hardness- revealed on “Beautiful Mess.”
“I broke down like a babe with the hungriest belly, You make it all worth my while” could sound manipulative in the wrongs hands (voice), but Chambers mixes sultriness with aggression revealing a strong inner core that plainly communicates that while she needs her lover, she is aware that he may not be the best for her: reciprocal loyalty counts for something.
Chambers doesn’t shy away from commercial considerations. “Someone Like Me,” I imagine, would sound at home on today’s country radio providing a bit of a palate cleanser from the more overt lite-pop inhabiting the playlists. Nicholson adds percussive brightness to a handful of songs- the album highlight “Devil On Your Back” for one- laying out some unpretentious, effective banjo fills.
The drumming on this album is pretty in your face; one imagines that John Watson has listened to more than a couple Waylon Jennings albums- Richie Albright’s heavy sound is all over Little Bird. Maybe this is the difference for me, what makes Little Bird a wonderful album to listen to while driving, what separates its obvious rock influences from the wimpy-arsed pop I encounter on country radio. Like Elizabeth Cook’s Welder, this is an album recorded with some serious attitude. Balls, perhaps.
Even a song as gentle as “Somewhere,” the one featuring Patty Griffin on backing vox, brings a touch of realism and strength to its melancholy. As she sings elsewhere, the fairy tale is over.
“Train Wreck,” with flavours of surf guitar, could be an outtake from a Los Straitjackets guest session, at least until the studio-jam closes the song. “Invisible Girl” is perhaps a sister to “Not Pretty Enough” with its premise of one seeing right through, not noticing, another. I don’t think it would be legitimate to compare Chambers to Guy Clark, but his “Texas, 1947” came to mind as Chambers recited her memories of childhood on “Nullarbor (The Biggest Backyard.)”
A most satisfying creation from one of Americana’s (I know she’s Australian, dang it) brightest and most recognizable voices.
As always, thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. I hope you are finding writing of interest. Donald
I’ve posted- over at Fervor Coulee Bluegrass- a review of Reason and Rhyme, the album from Jim Lauderdale that will be released next week. http://www.countrystandardtime.com/blog/FervorCouleeBluegrass/entry.asp?xid=761 will get you there. It is an uneven album, in my opinion, but has much to recommend it and I have enjoyed listening to it for the past couple weeks. Its flaws, while apparent, only detract momentarily and don’t overwhelm the release.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
Sarah Jarosz Follow Me Down Sugar Hill
In many ways, I lead a sheltered life. I don’t listen to satellite radio and those few stations I do frequent don’t, as far as I’ve noticed, favour Sarah Jarosz with substantial airplay. So it was only yesterday morning that I heard someone outside my head pronounce her surname.
Suffice to say, what I heard on CKUA sounded much more seemly than my own butchering of the nimble-voiced lass’s name.
Having mostly missed her debut of a couple years back, I’ve been listening to this album for quite some time now and can’t get enough of it. The first two songs, “Run Away” and “Come Around- both self-written although the first shares credit with Alyssa Bonagura)- are as fine examples of the music I dubbed acoustiblue a decade ago as I’ve heard, this despite there being a bit of electric guitar (from Jacosz and John Leventhal) on the album’s lead track.
I was ready to give a nod to Gillian Welch for writing “Annabel Lee,” but it appears this new song owes no small amount to a new Nashville cat I had missed named Poe. Edgar Allan.
Much of the glorious magic of the album’s first ten minutes has to be credited to Chris Thile and his Nickel Creek partners, their participation absent as it is. Had that youthful band of upstarts not done what they did a decade and more ago, I’m not sure our ears- certainly my ears- would be ready to hear these spacious, layered sounds. Viktor Krauss’s bass provides a voluminous sound that provides additional substance throughout these initial songs.
And from this initial blast of loveliness, things only get better.
Of course, the greatest credit for the success of Follow Me Down must be directed toward the multi-instrumentalist and vocalist herself. On various mandolins and guitars- and on a single song, banjo- the New England Conservatory of Music student demonstrates that the promise I’ve read so much about has been realized. Yes, Jarosz is surrounded by some of the business’s finest talents- Stuart Duncan, Jerry Douglas, Béla Fleck, and Mark Schatz here and there, Dan Tyminski, Sarah Siskind, Vince Gill, and Darrell Scott lend harmony throughout and The Punch Brothers- with Chris Thile on harmony and mando- on a single track, a cover of Radiohead’s “The Tourist.”
Depending on who is reading this, you and I could lead such a group and it likely wouldn’t sound terrible. Well, maybe you could- I’m pretty sure I could ruin such a gathering. But Jarosz most obviously possesses a special talent that rarely develops to the level it has in her at such an early age; she is the exception to my rule of not getting excited about anyone’s musical output before they are twenty- and Wikipedia informs me that she beats that by only a day here at Fervor Coulee.
I could listen to this all day- heck, I’ve been listening to it for most of tonight and more times than I can count this month. As her voice flexes and climbs with Darrell Scott’s on “Here and There”- not delicate, thin, or fragile as one may mistakenly assume, but solid, strong, and formidable, one can’t help but be impressed. There is something substantial here, something that suggests that this is but the beginning of a wonderful journey.
There are more than a few singer and musicians I remember hearing for the first time: Nanci Griffith. Bruce Springsteen. Guy Clark. I can’t say I remember the first time I heard Jarosz sing. But I wish it was with this album, because I’m pretty sure I won’t forget what I felt the first time I heard Follow Me Down.
If roots music and chamber music ever came together, I think it might sound like this. It’s fresh, it sounds and feels spontaneous. And it is very, very good. But, don’t let my ineffectual writing dissuade you- if you are even the least bit adventurous in your roots music listening, track down Sarah Jarosz’s sophomore effort, Follow Me Down.
Once again, thanks for visiting here at Fervor Coulee. Donald
Tara Nevins Wood and Stone Sugar Hill
Although she has been performing with Donna the Buffalo for some two decades, outside a brief flirtation around their Jim Lauderdale collaboration of several years back, before Wood and Stone, I was pretty ignorant about Tara Nevins.
Sadly, I didn’t even recognize her name when the album arrived in its nondescript plain yellow-padded envelope last month; the disc sat ignored for more than a few weeks. Once again, my bad.
If you’ve read this far, you likely already know more about Tara Nevins than I could possibly tell you, so let me be brief. The Cajun-flavoured “All I Ever Needed” is my new favourite song this week and Wood and Stone contains half-a-dozen songs easily as appealing as that slice of enchanted sustenance. “You’re Still Driving that Truck” may not be a hit for Nevins- not that it couldn’t or shouldn’t be- but I can hear someone like Miranda Lambert taking hold of it, making it her own, and getting some airplay.
Not as up tempo but every bit as well constructed and engaging are songs such as “Snowbird” (which features the aforementioned Lauderdale on duet vocals, and who has his own Sugar Hill album coming out next month) and “Stars Fell on Alabama.” The latter song, a jazz standard popularized by Billie Holliday and others, is retooled by Nevins as a lonesome mountain ballad accompanied as she is by Crooked Jade-Rose Sinclair on banjo.
While the album largely consists of originals, three of the album’s final four songs are covers, be they very creative and unconventional covers, as in the case of “Stars Fell on Alabama.” Van Morrison’s full-throated “The Beauty of the Days Gone By” is softened but not weakened in Nevins’s treatment, serving as an appropriate foil to Nevins’s own preceding “Tennessee River.” The traditional “Down South Blues” is recast as a poppy, 60s country song, the kind of thing you may have heard on the flip of a Jeannie C. Riley hit.
I should likely write more about Nevins’s fiddling, but I’m so taken with her voice, there doesn’t seem to be much point in further fawning, however well-intentioned.
Nevins’s world is certainly not all lightness and flowers, but she never succumbs to wallowing in the murk for too long. The result is a challenging, multi-dimensional album that should appeal to folks who enjoy Rosanne Cash’s more playful side, although Diana Jones is perhaps a more representative comparison.
The more I listen to Wood and Stone, the more I find to appreciate; I suspect I’m going to be listening to this one well into the fall.
As always, thanks for visiting at Fervor Coulee. Donald
Regular visitors may recall in March I shared some listening suggestions for those just beginning to explore the dusty backroads of the bluegrass world. Now that the Summer edition of That High Lonesome Sound is available, I’ll post the continuation and conclusion of the piece; the full newsletter is available at http://www.waskasoobluegrass.com/nl/waskasoo_sum10.pdf
I don’t expect anyone to necessarily agree with my opinion, nor do I claim that my list is definitive. We each have to find our way on the bluegrass track- I’m just hoping some readers will benefit from my advice and find some music they may not have otherwise discovered.
In our last issue, I provided suggestions for bluegrass fans who are just beginning to explore the music, CDs that were from the ‘classic’ era of bluegrass (more or less) that I believe provide an introduction to my favourite music. This time I provide additional suggestions– remember, this listing is not definitive and I certainly welcome the ideas of others; if you have opinions on bluegrass albums that are readily available, we’d love to publish your thoughts.
Continuing our bluegrass journey with:
Yesterday meets today:
David Grisman- Home is Where the Heart Is (Rounder, 2008- originally released in 1988) David Grisman went back in time to have the second- and third-generation pay tribute to the music that forged their careers. Probably the first place I heard Del McCoury, 23 of the 24 songs are darn near perfect; I refuse to give any credit to the second worst song in the bluegrass canon, “I’m My Own Grandpa.”
Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder- Bluegrass Rules! (Rounder, 1997) Still my favourite Skaggs album since he came back to bluegrass from country music stardom. The album doesn’t let up even when it slows down; from the mando kick-off of “Get Up John” through to the closing notes of “Rawhide” we have a survey of bluegrass history served up by one of the most talented bluegrass groups ever assembled. Likely easiest to find at the Skaggs Family Records website.
Del McCoury Band- Del & the Boys (McCoury, 2007- originally released on Ceili, 2001) Any place is a good place to start with Del McCoury. I chose this recording because it served as a bit of a break-through for Del and his sons, giving them a signature song in Richard Thompson’s “1952 Vincent Black Lightning”, and served as a pinnacle for the group. It’s Just the Night (McCoury, 2003) is as strong, and has more blues and folk influences while The Cold Hard Facts (Rounder, 1996) is a pure, stone classic.
Steve Earle & The Del McCoury Band- The Mountain (2009, New West- originally issued E-Squared, 1999) Steve Earle isn’t a bluegrass singer, but he does know bluegrass. In what could have been a vanity project, Earle composed more than a dozen solid bluegrass songs to sing and pick with the finest bluegrass band working at the time. That the partnership was short-lived and dissolved in acrimony doesn’t take anything away from the recording with songs like “Carrie Brown,” “The Mountain,” and “Yours Forever Blue” entering the bluegrass repertoire. The place to start if you are a Steve Earle fan just encountering bluegrass.
David Davis & The Warrior River Boys- Two Dimes and a Nickel (Rebel Records, 2009) Really, any one of his three most recent albums is an excellent introduction to David Davis’ particular brand of bluegrass music. Seldom does one think of the literary aspects of bluegrass, but when encountering Davis one isn’t offered any other course. He doesn’t seem to have the populist appeal that others may, but he possesses an artistic vision as defined and assured as anyone. The album’s strongest track is Tommy Freeman’s “The Brambles, Briars and Me.” The song is positively spooky in its matter-of-factness, and the Warrior River Boys- especially Owen Saunders’ fiddle contributions- make it haunting. A classic album.
Alison Krauss & Union Station- Every Time You Say Goodbye (Rounder, 1992) The ‘coming of age’ album for both Alison and Union Station. Every song is a winner, from the sacred (“Shield of Faith,” sung by Ron Block) and the traditional (“Cluck Old Hen”) to the unexpected (“Lose Again” from the Karla Bonoff folio) and the familiar (“Another Night.”) A classic recording that spoke to future greatness. Can’t find this one? No problem. Give Two Highways (Rounder, 1988) or So Long, So Wrong (Rounder, 1997) a try. The 2002 album Live would also be a fine introduction to one of bluegrass music’s most successful, multi-dimensional, and loyal outfits.
Rhonda Vincent- One Step Ahead (Rounder, 2003) All of her albums have something to offer, and Vincent has been consistent over time. I favour this one because it didn’t feel as over-polished as some of her later work would, it has some fiery bluegrass picking throughout, and it came at a time when there were few bands as exciting as The Rage. That “Ridin’ the Red Line” mentions Alberta didn’t hurt.
Steep Canyon Rangers- Deep in the Shade (Rebel Records, 2009) Contemporary bluegrass doesn’t get much better than this. From a youthful band of veterans, Deep in the Shade is the group’s fifth release, but the band hasn’t significantly altered their approach or sound. And while on some bands this may appear stagnant or limited, with the Rangers the impression is of consistency and capability. As they did on Lovin’ Pretty Women, the Steep Canyon Rangers demonstrate that a band can be musically innovative while reaching into the past. Steep Canyon Rangers straddle the blurred edges of traditional and progressive bluegrass.
Dale Ann Bradley- Don’t Turn Your Back (Compass Records, 2009) A mountain soprano of rare talent, Dale Ann Bradley has been wearing a path from the hills of Eastern Kentucky to Music City for two decades. With Don’t Turn Your Back she has not only created an album featuring rare musicianship and vocal harmonies, she has continued her ascendancy to the highest reaches of the bluegrass vocal world. Don’t Turn Your Back is a masterful recording, one that falls solidly within the most stringent of bluegrass definitions, yet is country enough that all roots fans should embrace its rich, melodic tones. With albums like Don’t Turn Your Back and singers like Dale Ann Bradley, the bluegrass community continues to shake off back wood images. If you can’t find this one, any Dale Ann album is worthy of consideration.
Ernie Thacker- The Hangman (Pinecastle, 2009) If you listen to the satellite radio, you likely know the name and voice, Ernie Thacker. If he has escaped your notice, change that right away. Thacker has natural bluegrass country voice that is memorable and distinctive. Listen to the way he bends his voice when singing the single word ‘throttle’ in “This Drinkin’ Will Kill Me.” Thacker was severely injured in a car accident several years ago, but has found a way to continue to make wonderful bluegrass music. His is a rare talent. Order CDs, including the excellent and hard-to-find The Chill of Lonesome (Doobie Shea, 2002), directly from his family at http://www.erniethackerroute23.com/
Adam Steffey- One More for the Road (Sugar Hill, 2009) A satellite radio favourite, Steffey’s (formerly Mountain Heart, Union Station, Dan Tyminski Band) second solo project is powerful from start to finish. While his lead voice isn’t the strongest, when listening to the first vocal track on the album I remarked to myself- because who else is listening inside my head- “I’ve missed that.” Throughout the album, Steffey is accompanied by the finest players, including Union Station mates Barry Bales, Ron Block, and Dan Tyminski. Heck, there’s even a Union Station circa 1997 reunion on “Warm Kentucky Sunshine,” with Alison taking the lead; evidence of her generosity and the ties that bind the bluegrass community, that one is a keeper. The featured mandolin breaks are demonstration that Steffey isn’t ready to rest on his laurels. My musical vocabulary isn’t strong enough to give justice to “Let Me Fall,” “Durang’s Hornpipe,” or “Half Past Four,” but the boys know what they’re doing.
James Reams & The Barnstormers- Troubled Times (Mountain Redbird, 2005) and James Reams, Walter Hensley & the Barons of Bluegrass- Wild Card (Mountain Redbird, 2006) Finally, to wrap up this selection of bluegrass starting points, two exceptional albums from James Reams. The first features hard-scrabble bluegrass with Kentucky roots, songs of salvation, hollers, trains, storms, home places, and mountains that disappear. The second is punctuated by the banjo of bluegrass pioneer Walter Hensley and is perhaps an even more clearly articulated of what bluegrass can be in the right hands. Visit http://www.jamesreams.com/ to find these recordings- because the packaging of both is exceptional- or iTunes and eMusic for downloads.
There they are, the places I recommend you use as starting places as you being to delve into the wonderful world of bluegrass. Words of caution– avoid the ‘bargain bin’ collections found in some stores. Often what you find will be shoddily compiled sets that are less than satisfying. Enjoy your bluegrass journey!
I recently received an email from Patrick at Lotos Nile bringing to my attention a series of videos being regularly uploaded to the Sam Bush site. Circles Around Me is an amazing acoustiblue and bluegrass album, and my reivew of it appears at http://fervorcoulee.wordpress.com/2010/01/09/sam-bush-circles-around-me/. Well worth buying.
Many of the clips are performances of songs from Circles Around Me with voice over from Sam adding colour to the recording process and songs. The story about The Ballad of Stringbean & Estelle is especially impressive, with remembrances of a fortuitous finding of a clipping about the story and Guy Clark’s reaction to it. There is also a series of clips where Sam reflects on the history of New Grass Revival that I haven’t yet examined but look forward to doing so.
I think I would really enjoy having a beverage with Sam Bush! Click on http://www.sambush.com/sbtv for a look-see.