When I first started to put this list of bluegrass and bluegrass-related albums of this year together, I suspected that I wouldn’t feel the need to list more than ten. Truth be told, I likely listened to less bluegrass this past year than any other in the last ten. The changing nature of the recording industry as a whole contributed to this: fewer companies are servicing freelancers with their products. Having said that, the list I finally came up with was comprised almost evenly of music I purchased and that which was sent to me.
Still, once I started gathering my listening thoughts together the list stretched to fifteen and then twenty albums and eventually thirty. With some judicious editing that revealed the difference between (to my ears) great and good, I settled on the twenty albums I not only listened to the most this past year, but which I most enjoyed- albums I feel I can recommend to others whose taste runs to the bluegrass side of things.
- The Steeldrivers- Reckless The Allmans and Stanleys battle it out somewhere near Walton’s Mountain. Allmans prevail. Mary Ellen’s virtue is the true victim. Not a weak cut on the album.
- The Earl Brothers The Earl Brothers Same skirmish. Different result. Mary-Ellen remains the real loser. A masterful album; nothing else like it released in the last year.
- Chatham County Line- Wildwood CCL may not get the airplay of The Infamous Stringdusters or Cadillac Sky or the critical accolades of The SteelDrivers, but they remain one of the brightest forces within the next bluegrass generation.
- Steve Gulley & Tim Stafford- Dogwood Winter Improves in my estimation with every listen. Beautiful.
- The Kathy Kallick Band- Between the Hollow and the High-Rise Kathy Kallick and her band play bluegrass with a distinctive and fresh flavor: a bit of blues, a touch of swing, a smidgen of folk mixed throughout. Put some drive behind all that, and you’ve got a winning bluegrass album.
- James Alan Shelton- Where I’m Bound A bright sounding album that positively leaps out of the speakers. Play it loud!
- Dierks Bentley- Up on the Ridge A terrific album and the contributions of The Punch Brothers and Del McCoury push it over the edge; for much of the year, my favourite country album. However, not quite grassy enough to be higher on this list.
- The Honey Dewdrops- These Old Roots With the absence of a new Gillian Welch album, this duo is becoming a favourite.
- Jeff & Vida -Selma Chalk Not exactly bluegrass, of course, but close enough for me to include. Genuine sultriness. Some of the songs have real pep, lively stuff but others are more atmospheric and moody, if I may. You’ll sit up and take notice if you take a chance.
- Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band- Legacy Still digesting this one, but I know I like it a lot. Hadn’t heard it until it started to show up on others’ year-end lists. Bought it at the first opportunity.
- The Special Consensus- 35 A bit brief- I would have enjoyed more out of print music, but the new performances favourably capture the latest incarnation of the Special C.
- The Grascals- The Famous Lefty Flynn’s The Grascals exhibit that they remain a bluegrass powerhouse, utilizing three-lead vocalists dexterously while maintaining a vibrant and multi-dimensional instrumental approach.
- Farewell Drifters- Yellow Tag Mondays
- Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen- Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen
- Crooked Still- Some Strange Country
- Will White- Rise Above
- Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice- Heartaches and Dreams
- The John Hartford Stringband- Memories of John
- Tim O’Brien- Chicken and Egg
- The Punch Brothers- Antifogmatic
A few other favourties: Trisha Gagnon- A Story About You and Me; Joe Diffie- Homecoming; Mark Brinkman- On the Brink of a Dream; The Carter Family III- Past and Present; Runaway Express- Howlin’ at the Moon.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee.