From the first time I heard The Grascals, I was sold. “Me and John and Paul,” the first song I heard from the band back in 2005, hit me between the eyes and it likely took me a full year before I could listen to the track without tearing up. It was an amazing debut number and a stellar way to make an initial collective mark within the bluegrass world. To my ears, it was the last IBMA Song of the Year that truly stood far above the competition; the Harley Allen track was an instant classic.
That being said, the band has- in my opinion- faltered at times, recording too much music that wasn’t distinctive enough. Still, taken as a whole, their four Rounder albums are darn impressive, and any one serves as an excellent introduction to the group.
I’ve given up on trying to differentiate between Jamie Johnson’s and Terry Eldridge’s voices since both are terrific, but I think it is Eldridge’s I most enjoy. Since the introduction of Kristin Scott Benson into the band’s sound on the 5-string, the band has reached new heights.
For years, The Grascals have been one of the most media savvy of bluegrass bands. Their friendship and musical partnership with Dolly Parton has served them well. With the release of their Cracker Barrel album this past winter, the band took things to the next level.
Still, The Grascals and Friends Country Classics with a Bluegrass Spin was imperfect. My review of that album is available here https://fervorcoulee.wordpress.com/2011/01/11/the-grascals-friends-country-classics-with-a-bluegrass-spin/. I understand the broad-based, marketing decisions behind the album and its execution- with a couple of missteps- is impressive.
Whereas the previous release stretched the definition of bluegrass into middle of the road country to a point where it wasn’t bluegrass, The Grascals’ latest release Dance Til Your Stockings are Hot and Ravelin’: A Tribute to the Music of The Andy Griffith Show very nicely grabs the music by the collar and hauls it back 50 years.
“Dooley” gets the proceedings started and things barely slow down for the next 15 minutes as The Grascals blast through seven songs, a television series, and fifty years of bluegrass history.
This is the music I love even though I’ve heard most of the songs more times than I care to count. Does anyone need to hear “Stay All Night (Stay A Little Longer)” again? But, when The Grascals perform the song, I’m glad to listen. “Boil Them Cabbage Down” and “Ol’ Joe Clark” sound like the classics they are, but are presented with the drive, fire, and fervor that made them immortal within bluegrass.
Produced in conjunction with one of the band’s sponsors- Mayberry’s Finest Foods- the collection includes a theme song that drops- to good effect- familiar Mayberry names and situations. “Boy, Giraffes are Selfish” takes its title straight from a Barney Fife line, and the song gently lopes along revealing Mayberry wisdom.
For those who were disappointed that The Grascals and Friends mostly played down Scott Benson’s banjo contributiongs, Dance Til Your Stockings… makes up for it- the 5-string is front and center throughout this collection.
Does Dance Til Your Stockings are Hot and Ravelin’: A Tribute to the Music of The Andy Griffith Show move bluegrass along its evolutionary timeline? Nope, nor does it need to. Instead The Grascals revisit the timeless, popular core of the music and reminds everyone that you can’t move forward if you forget- or don’t know- the past.
That and tie in cross-marketing whenever possible.
The E.P. is available from The Grascals website and iTunes, and much of the project is presented as video on www.grascals.com. The Grascals are scheduled to appear (with Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Marty Stuart, Connie Smith and others) at this summer’s Blueberry Bluegrass and Country Music Festival in Stony Plain.
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald