My recently written reviews of albums from Ohio’s The Missy Werner Band and California’s The Bee Eaters have been posted by Aaron over at the Lonesome Road Review. I appreciate all the bands who service me with albums; I thank you. And, as always- thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
The Missy Werner Band
Three Kinds of Lonesome
3.5 stars (out of 5)
By Donald Teplyske
Storming out of Ohio this winter is the sophomore project from the Missy Werner Band. Fronted by the mandolin-playing bandleader, this quartet reveals here that they are ready for a national stage.
Produced by noted bluegrass writer and musician Jon Weisberger, Three Kinds of Lonesome is a very strongly crafted contemporary bluegrass album. Professionally recorded but by no means staid, the warm and vibrant performances make even new songs instant favourites.
Following in the footsteps of bandleaders including Lynn Morris and Alison Krauss, Werner has elected to emphasize the Missy Werner Band rather than utilize a contingent of studio hands. Tim Strong plays guitar and contributes vocals while Artie Werner plays the bass and sings. Jeff Roberts is the band’s 5-string player with Missy Werner holding down the mandolin parts and lead vocals.
Only a few instrumental guests appear, notably Mike Witcher on Dobro® and Aaron Till on fiddle. Duet vocals from Frank Solivan (“Endlessly”) and the always dependable Chris Jones (“Just the Same”) provide variety while Jennifer Strickland’s vocals add additional texture.
Several Weisberger co-writes appear throughout the album’s 14 selections. Written with Strickland, “I’d Rather Love a Memory” kicks off the album with a familiar-sounding and appealing melody, and one day I may even place it! Later, “Right Here” – co-written by Lisa Shaffer- and “Let It Go”- written with Ashley Lewis- take different routes toward life’s pathways.
Werner appears comfortable singing the chosen songs and is an emotive singer. One may desire one or two fewer sentimental lost-love songs, but on balance Three Kinds of Lonesome retains this listener’s interest. “I Like the Country”- the Jim McCall song- features nice harmony work from Werner’s bandmates. The album closes with a welcome interpretation of The Bluegrass Cardinals’ “Journey to My Savior’s Side.”
Intentionally, Werner pays tribute to the hard-working women who broke ground as bluegrass bandleaders. “Blue Skies and Teardrops” comes from the Lynn Morris Band album The Bramble & the Rose while Larry Cordle’s “My First Mistake” closed Dale Ann Bradley’s East Kentucky Morning album fifteen years ago.
Modern bluegrass is rife with influences and interpretations that expand the music’s definition. Three Kinds of Lonesome is a bluegrass album that couldn’t have been produced twenty years ago; its balance of contemporary sounds within a fairly traditional band setting is most impressive.
The Bee Eaters
3.5 stars (out of 5)
By Donald Teplyske
With no shortage of acoustiblue bands currently creating exceptional instrumental music,
one can be forgiven for having missed the release last fall of The Bee Eaters’ very enjoyable Oddfellows Road. Thinking the band’s name is The Bee Laters is less forgivable, but I continueto swear that ‘that’ is no way to make an ‘E’.
Based within but in no way limited by fiddle-traditions, The Bee Eaters are a California-
based outfit focused around siblings Tashina (fiddle) and Tristan (fiddle and cello) Clarridge. Completing the trio is Simon Chrisman on hammered dulcimer while friend Wesley Corbett contributes banjo. The band’s sound is augmented by Dominick Leslie’s mandolin on three tracks including the atmospheric and aggressive “Dry Shasta, Wet Shasta.”
When listening to this generous, hour-long album, one is simultaneously soothed and challenged by airy yet complex rhythms. The sounds are quite beautiful and feel completely natural, an effect that the band appears to have deliberately worked toward. One instrumental interlude flows easily into the next, all supported by a vision that is as real as it is elusive. If there is a fault to the album, it is that not enough of the songs significantly distinguish themselves from those that surround them.
Some months ago, I mused that “… on Queen of Yesterday the five-piece Houston Jones band is tight and mostly laid back, bringing to mind to what a Tim O’Brien-fronted Bruce Hornsby group might sound like.” In this context, The Bee Eaters sound very much like what an acoustic Tim O’Brien-fronted Bruce Hornsby group might sound like notwithstanding the album’s only vocal track, the Bruce Molsky-led rendition of “The Way It Is.” Mike Marshall contributes mandolin to a single track, “Cumulus.”
The roots of The Bee Eaters music can certainly be found in bluegrass, but as prominent are the elements of jazz, blues, chamber music, and all matter of intricate folk sounds they weave into their repertoire. Sparse banjo notes punctuate an instrumental flow that is at turns gripping and hypnotic.
As someone who has heard precisely seventy-six too many acoustic renditions of Michael
Jackson songs, I was very surprised to find appreciation in The Bee Eaters’ cover of “Thriller.” More than novelty, this playful rendition- built around the group’s instrumental strengths- is naturally one of the more memorable tunes contained within Oddfellows Road.
Oddfellows Road is a mature release that serves as excellent introduction to The Bee Eaters. This writer anticipates hearing more from this promising group.