Peter Rowan- Carter Stanley’s Eyes review   2 comments

Rowan

Peter Rowan Carter Stanley’s Eyes Rebel Records

Carter Stanley’s Eyes is an acute reminder of that, when performed with talent, inspiration, and respect, bluegrass is a very powerful thing.

Peter Rowan has been a bluegrass institution for more than thirty years, with a pedigree stretching back to the mid-1960s as a member of the Blue Grass Boys. Rowan—the target of the infamous Bill Monroe quote, “Don’t go too far out on that limb, there’s enough flowers out there already”—has frequently ventured well-outside the bluegrass realm, almost always with satisfying results.

With Carter Stanley’s Eyes, Rowan returns to the formidable truck of the bluegrass tree with an album-long tribute to the music and its originators, especially Carter and Ralph Stanley. Rowan’s voice has always percolated richness infused with eternal qualities, and across the 14 songs and nearly fifty minutes of this release, everything we have come to expect from ‘bluegrass’ Peter Rowan are prominently displayed.

A pulsating and mandolin-rich rendition of “Drumbeats Along the Watchtower” (more familiarly entitled “Wild Geese Cry Again”) opens the recording, and it is an excellent start. Rowan shows he is ready to do the heaviest lifting on this his fortieth-or-so non-live album. The song is also indication of how closely tied this album will be to the Stanley tradition. “The Light In Carter Stanley’s Eyes” captures a formative moment in Rowan’s early bluegrass career, a recitation of self-deprecation and mentor validation

A number of songs made essential via the Stanley Brothers are incorporated, including “The Hills of Roane County,” “A Vision of Mother,” “Let Me Love You One More Time,” and “Too Late To Cry.” A couple numbers have a spiritual theme including, freshened with stellar recording methods and an inspired arrangement, “A Crown He Wore,” also famously recorded by the Stanleys. “A Tiny Broken Heart”— initially made popular by the Louvin Brothers, and as a bluegrass staple  via Hazel & Alice, The Bluegrass Cardinals, and Dan Tyminski, among others—is a bit drippy for my tastes, but it has served its purpose for dozens of years and isn’t out of place among this set of now traditional pieces.

Within “Can’t You Hear Me Calling,” a signature element of the Monroe  Doctrine, echoes of the Master are readily apparent without ever once sounding forced or artificial: Rowan has an ability to evoke Monroe while avoiding mimicry.

These performances comfortably complement the most engaging released by Rowan, in no small part due to the quality of the musicians and vocalists with which he has surrounded himself.  [The only negative I can find with this entire package is that individual credits are not provided.] Connections to the legends abound, with Blaine Sprouse, who played with Monroe, on fiddle, Jack Lawrence (Doc Watson) is the credited lead guitarist, and Don Rigsby, who was closely associated with Ralph Stanley, plays mandolin. Rowan’s touring group- Patrick Sauber (banjo), Chris Henry (mandolin), and Paul Knight (bass)-are given equal billing. Produced by Rowan, and co-produced with Tim O’Brien (both of whom also contribute guitar), the album’s sound, production, and aural atmosphere are pristine.

After more than fifty years as a bluegrass professional, the light shines in Peter Rowan’s eyes: that he loves bluegrass music is without doubt. Neither is his ability to create a masterful album of bluegrass classics.

 

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Bob Rea- Southbound review   1 comment

Bob Rae

Bob Rea Southbound Shiny Dime Records/ BobRaeMusic.com

Recently a friend mentioned that he continued to enjoy a mix CD I had made for him several years ago. He went on to mention that the folks whose music was featured on that burned disc—Billy Joe Shaver, Guy Clark, Larry Jon Wilson, Billy Swan, and the like—were of a special ilk, the “kind they don’t make anymore.”

I guess I’ll next have to introduce him to Nashville’s Bob Rea. Turns out, they do still make heartworn troubadours of the type we have come to appreciate over the last forty-plus years of listening to roots music of all its various shades.

Like many of the albums produced by any of those mentioned, with Southbound the listener is three-songs deep before even thinking about moving: these songs captivate. When Rea sings, in “Say Goodnight,”

When you’re standing on the platform,
Waiting on that midnight train
You know if you hold your ear close to the track
You can almost smell the rain

you know you have heard a stanza you will never forget, whether or not you’ve ever driven through a Mississippi night, read a Faulkner novel, or even thought about letting go. Absolutely brilliant.

And don’t let me go on too much about his voice! Perhaps not since Darrell Scott convinced his father Wayne that it was time to make a recording have I been so pleasantly surprised by a singer’s gravel-lined voice, soulful and strong. Bob Rea is the real deal, the kind of singer I would be thrilled to have discovered when I was first searching out the influences and contemporaries of Rodney Crowell, Steve Earle, and Lyle Lovett.

The deeper one delves into Southbound, the stronger the songs become. “Screw Cincinnati” is a humourous, biting tale of disappointing enchantment ending with the twist of a lipstick, while “The Law” is perhaps inspired by our current state of political and world affairs, and yet is more than twenty years old. “Vietnam” has a novel hidden within twenty-four lines, and I can well-imagine Guy Clark exclaiming, ‘Jesus Christ’ upon hearing “A Place In Your Heart.” The title track is an ode to a free-wheeling lover who has just hit the road, an alternative to John Hiatt’s “Drive South,” perhaps.

Beyond the voice, lyrics, and melodies—all of which are impressive to the nth degree—the musicianship is also stunning. There is some guitar work within “The Law” that is every bit as impressive as anything Mark Knopfler has laid out: beyond atmospheric, these measured chords colour Rea’s intention with vibrancy.

Call it country. Call it Americana. Call it folk. Southbound is roots music. And a damn fine example of it.

 

 

Posted 2018 April 15 by Donald Teplyske in Uncategorized

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Big Bend Killing: The Appalachian Ballad Tradition review   Leave a comment

Big Bend I had to take much of the past month away from writing, but I continued to listen to music. I can’t count the number of hours I spent listening to this amazing two-disc set. It is absolutely splendid, ideal for those of us who appreciate the old songs and the artists who keep them alive. My review has been posted at Country Standard Time. 

New bluegrass from Sideline   Leave a comment

Sideline has a new album coming soon. Entitled Front and Center, the album will serve as the group’s first for Mountain Home and I am fortunate to have a copy in-hand. The album has at least five top-notch songs that I can recall after only a pair of listens. The best may be one entitled “Lysander Hayes” while “Old Time Way,” if memory serves, borrows the “Ground Hog” instrumental refrain. The group has released a pair of videos in advance of the album release in late April. “Thunder Dan” currently sits at #2 on the Bluegrass Today chart; Gordon Lightfoot’s “Song for a Winter’s Night” may not prove to be as chart-friendly simply because it isn’t as mainstream a song. Popularized in bluegrass by Tony Rice, this take features Skip Cherryholmes in the lead position.

 

Posted 2018 March 11 by Donald Teplyske in Uncategorized

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Elk Run & Riot- Wandering video   Leave a comment

From Canmore:

 

Posted 2018 March 11 by Donald Teplyske in Uncategorized

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Dave Richardson- Carry Me Along review   Leave a comment

Cover+Recreation+Best

Dave Richardson Carry Me Along www.DaveRichardsonFolk.com

Dave Richardson is a relatively fresh voice on the North American folk scene, and with just a bit of justice and good fortune could also soon be a familiar voice.

From Vermont, Richardson possesses a strong voice and favours clean annunciation and guitar playing. His writing is similarly straight-forward, eschewing abstract word placement in favour of personable phrasing and descriptive language that captures mood, place, and character much like an effective short story author might. Carry Me Along, his third album (I believe), is most pleasing.

The album opens with a creative paean to an artifact discovered during a trip to the Smithsonian Institute; “Squid” may be the first folk song devoted to a giant cephalopod, and Richardson sings of the mysterious sea beastie with the honesty of an earnest lover. After this yearnsome tune, the aggressive independence of “Bachelor’s Hall”—the Appalachian variant owing more to Jean Ritchie than either Steeleye Span or Martin Simpson—reveals a darker view of courting: the truth seems to be—oceanic or interpersonal—relationships may not be worth the effort.

Similar introversion and introspection are found throughout this album. Featuring a dozen cuts, Carry Me Along is 2/3 original material with a handful of familiar melodies and traditional songs providing evidence of the influence the ballad tradition has had on this emerging and certainly talented artist. Bolstered by several different female vocalists—Liv Baxter, Emily Mure, and Mali Obomsawin, who also provides most of the bass—Richardson encompasses a variety of perspectives in his songs.

Richardson’s voice is quite perfect, neither artfully brooding or overly spry. Singing of companionable “Front Porch Time,” pastoral moments observing the “Rise and Play” of a fox, and astringent recrimination while “Driving So Far,” Richardson’s authenticity is resplendent with sincerity and texture: no one and no situation is one-dimensional. Child Ballad 78—”The Unquiet Grave”—perhaps provides the foundation for Richardson’s approach to folk music: a classic folk song provided a tad of personal inspiration without detracting from that which survived centuries.

Richardson rescues The McGarrigle’s barroom angel “Annie” (written by long-time collaborator Chaim Tannenbaum) from obscurity, late in the set pairing this ’74 out-take with the more idyllic, hopeful, and guitar-rich “Goodbye Baltimore.” Richardson also delivers a masterfully rendered interpretation of the  devastating murder ballad “Polly’s Ghost,” known variously elsewhere as “Love and Murder,” “The Cruel Ship’s Carpenter,” “Polly’s Love,” and “The Ghost Song”: one gets the drift.

Modern folk, true folk—that is music rooted in the tradition and performed within a traditional configuration—is increasingly rarely encountered. All the more reason to celebrate the music of Dave Richardson and his little masterpiece, Carry Me Along. One for the year-end list, I’m predicting.

Posted 2018 March 11 by Donald Teplyske in Uncategorized

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Wylie & the Wild West- 2000 Miles From Nashville review   Leave a comment

Wylie

I am really pleased with this review. I enjoyed listening to the album, not a real surprise since I like my country actually to sound like country music. But I also enjoyed writing the review, something that doesn’t always happen. I was able to weave in a couple words and phrases that brought a smile to my increasingly gnarled face. I also received a real nice note of feedback about the review, one that included the words “You are an exceptional writer…” Yeah, that never happens, so some positive feedback love was most appreciated. Regarding my writing, your kilometreage may vary, of course, but 2000 Miles From Home is a darned fine album, filled with memorable songs and performances. Check it out at Country Standard Time.