Archive for the ‘Bluegrass CD reviews’ Tag

Corrina Rose Logston- Bluegrass Fiddler review   1 comment

untitled

Corinna Rose Logston Bluegrass Fiddler Patuxent Music

Patuxent Music, over the past handful of years, has released some very fine bluegrass music. Not everything they do is to my liking, but neither is everything that comes out on Mountain Home, Rebel, or Rounder.

This year has been especially pleasing. Things started late in 2015 with Danny Paisley & Southern Grass’s excellent Weary River and continued with Audie Blaylock & Redline’s The Road That Winds and Frank Wakefield and Leon Morris’s self-titled album. The Travers Chandler Archaic album had its moments, and while Charm City Junction didn’t do much for me personally, their talent is apparent.

Now comes a release from an artist I wasn’t previously familiar with but whom I am going to start watching out for, Corrina Rose Logston. From what I can gather searching the web (the one-sheet accompanying the album is short of background) this is Logston’s third album following a pair of (perhaps) self-released efforts. Previously this year, she released an album with the band High Fidelity, whose banjo player Kurt Stephenson is featured prominently on this release. Logston also regularly appears with Jesse McReynolds.

The title of the album is an acute summation. This is a bluegrass fiddle album, and a darned fine one. While I will sometimes drift-off (to use a polite term for ‘lose consciousness’) listening to a fiddle-dominated recording, Bluegrass Fiddler kept me intrigued from start to finish. No doubt part of the reason was that Logston’s assembled band keeps things interesting, not just supporting her fiddling showcase, but sounding like a true band who has worked up a strong set of numbers.

“Laughing Boy” kicks things off in capable fashion, and it isn’t too long before a delightful original “Sandbridge” makes an appearance. This lively number moves just a little, injecting some creative spark to the presentation. While the album is largely instrumental, there are two vocal tracks, both of which are impressive.

An old C&W song from Cowboy Copas, “I Don’t Blame You,” is featured first, and includes excellent interplay between the band members, especially Logston and guitarist Jeremy Stephens. It is the type of song one might expect John Reischman & the Jaybirds to uncover and enliven with bluegrass verve.

While many have heard “Foggy Mountain Top” a thousand times or more, we have to remember we all heard it for the first time performed by someone, and as often as not not the Carter Family. Whomever is introduced to the song via this rendition is in for a treat, as the fiddling is stunning, the lead and harmony singing is delightful, and Casey Campbell’s mandolin break is real nice.

Bluegrass vet David Mclaughlin appears on five tracks, including a stout “Smokey Mountain Rag.” P.J. George, who also plays with Lindsay Lou & the Flatbellys (a band I reviewed here), is the bassist. Several popular fiddle numbers are featured including “Sopping the Gravy,” “Wilson’s Hornpipe,” and “Snowflake Breakdown.” The album’s second original number is a showstopper, “Honeycat Hornpipe.” Delightful.

Bluegrass Fiddler is a very impressive album, one that has the extra ‘something’ to separate it from the mass of releases encountered this year. It will find a place on my ‘best of 2016’ list, me thinks

Grascals, Honeycutters, Travers Chandler, & Sister Sadie- lost/found   Leave a comment

Starting the ‘year-end’ process, and in doing so I found a couple reviews posted elsewhere that I didn’t link through here at Fervor Coulee.

Very early this year, The Grascals released their eighth album ..and then there’s this. Country Standard Time published my review. It was a great way to start off what turned out to be a better than typical year of bluegrass albums. grascals

This summer, The Honeycutters knocked me out with their exceptional album On The Ropes. That review was published at Lonesome Road Review. the-honeycutters-on-the-ropes

Travers Chandler’s Archaic was released a few months back, and my review was published over at Country Standard Time; the typo is likely entirely my own danged fault. Some good ones on here, but a couple clunkers, too. archaic

Finally, can’t believe I missed putting up a link to one of my favourite albums of the year, Sister Sadie’s debut release. What a set- over at Country Standard Time.

307217534cdbb2ec36864489b286660f

Careless on my part- sometimes it is hard to keep up. Best to you- listen to some roots music. Maybe even buy it! Donald

Blue Highway- Original Traditional review   1 comment

blue_highway_original_traditional_cover_rgb

Blue Highway Original Traditional Rounder Records

For more than twenty years, listeners have been privileged every couple years to encounter a new album from Blue Highway.

Original Traditional, their eleventh and first since Dobroist Rob Ickes departed, continues their most recent blueprint: original music written or co-written by band members along with a single traditional song. The album’s title alludes to the group’s tendency to bridge the generations of bluegrass through recognition and reverence for the traditions of the music while ensuring a contemporary, original perspective is always present.

With three formidable lead vocalists and key songwriters—Tim Stafford (guitar,) Shawn Lane (mandolin, fiddle, guitar,) and Wayne Taylor (bass)— along with Jason Burleson’s alternately aggressive and pensive, propulsive and sympathetic banjo presence (his tune “Alexander’s Run” is a highlight of the recording) and an instrumental lineup as strong as has ever been staged, Blue Highway is one of the top bands in the business.

Joining the group for this recording is the youthful Gaven Largent, briefly of Michael Cleveland’s Flamekeeper and a player who doesn’t ease his way into the Blue Highway sound, confidently laying out his runs on mid-set numbers including the love-gone-wrong piece “What You Wanted” and the vengeful murder ballad “The Story of My Life.”

“Don’t Weep For Me”—essentially “I Don’t Believe You’ve Met My Baby” meets “Echo Mountain” minus the dog—is a strong lead song. The rest of the 38 minute album reveals the accustomed cast of bluegrass fellows who drink too much (“Water From the Stone,”) hold onto childhood trauma too long (“The Story of My Life,”) and lose a good woman’s love because of it all (“If Lonesome Don’t Kill Me.”)

Still, Blue Highway isn’t a band favouring one-dimensional songs, and none of those songs mentioned exist without shades of gray. In Shawn Lane and Gerald Ellenburg’s album closing number, Blue Highway revisit the good ole days at “The Top of the Ridge” while writing what sounds like either an elegy or (in darker eyes) a note of suicide. “She Ain’t Worth It,” in hands other than Tim Stafford and Steve Gulley, might have been just another song of fateful revenge; their protagonist thinks a little longer about his predicament—rather than grabbing his .44, he sits and “bathe(s) in the afterglow.”

“She Ain’t Worth It” swings more than a little, and features Largent to nice effect. Similarly, “Last Time I’ll Ever Leave This Town” provides the instrumentalists room to showcase their offerings. “Water From the Stone” has a pleasing and inspirational gospel quartet arrangement, while the a cappella treatment of “Hallelujah” is just showing off and seems a fine message to the IBMA: Why exactly aren’t we named Vocal Group of the Year annually?

I am sure I am not the only amateur fact-checker who has gone on extended forays to learn the true life blues behind particular folk and bluegrass numbers. Many (many) years ago, one of the first I did this with was “Tom Dooley,” the standard popularized by Grayson & Whitter, The Kingston Trio, Doc Watson, and hundreds of others. I remember scouring the local libraries for ‘facts’ related to the story of Tom Dula and Laura Foster.

On the Legacy recording made with David Holt, Watson suggested his grandmother knew something about the tale, and that intrigued me even more, as did reading Sharyn McCrumb’s excellent The Ballad of Tom Dooley. My interest was therefore piqued to read the song title “Wilkes County Clay” (the locale of those post-Civil War events) and even more thrilled as the song began with, “In North Carolina, in the County of Wilkes, there’s a tale of deception, murder, and guilt. I’ll spare no compassion, the truth I will tell, Let God alone judge me, this side of hell.” From those words, one knew where Tim Stafford and songwriting partner Bobby Starnes were going.

“Wilkes County Clay” is a mournful song, with Lane’s fiddle colouring the song much as one imagines the instrument did Dula’s final moments. While the narrator’s identify isn’t clear, the song is an agreeable telling of the tale, taking the Grayson-path that other accounts discount. The lyrical choices made (“She hid like a panther in the black of the night, And killed Laura Foster with a bone handle knife”) raises this above typical bluegrass fare.

Original Traditional is another outstanding bluegrass album from Blue Highway. They make it seem easy: forced listening to the number of less-than-adequate bluegrass albums available proves that it isn’t. Blue Highway is a great band, one that has been contributing fresh insight into the bluegrass spectrum for more than two decades. That they continue to rise to the level they do, never taking the easy way, never delivering less than stellar material, is testament to the importance they place on their legacy.

Excellent cover, presumably by Bobby Starnes, too!

Thank you for taking the time to seek out Fervor Coulee. I appreciate that there are lots of places to get roots information and opinion; I’m glad I’m one of them. Donald

 

Kristin Scott Benson- Stringworks review   Leave a comment

stringworks

Kristin Scott Benson recently released a very fine bluegrass album, and I was asked to write about it for Country Standard Time. I have.

But, prior to being asked to do that, I had written a blog entry over at Fervor Coulee Bluegrass which looked at the three KSB albums as well as instrumental bluegrass albums in general. It rambles a bit, but there may be two of three salient ideas included.

No promises.

Thanks to the folks at Mountain Home and all other labels and independent artists and publicists who show faith in my by getting fresh roots music into my ears.

Donald

 

The Vivants- Bluegrass Special review   Leave a comment

Still catching up from summer…

vivants

The Vivants Bluegrass Special www.TheVivants.com

Bluegrass nerds (of which I am proudly one) have defined and redefined the music in more ways than most listeners care to keep track of—for the sake of those types, The Vivants perform music most commonly pegged as pre-Scruggs, Monroe Brothers-style bluegrass. Fronted by Emily Bonn, The Vivants present two- and three- part harmony with hearty female leads and old-timey acoustic instrumentations.

Coming in just over 20 minutes, this seven-track EP wastes no time on flash: this is hard hitting music for hard hit folks. The title track is a fresh interpretation of Bill Monroe’s classic number featuring fiddle, banjo, and mandolin as well as accordion and tap. “Asheville” is one of those songs you’ve never before heard, but are convinced you have. A highlight it the old fiddle tune “Shove the Pigs Foot a Little Further in the Fire,” entitled simply “Pig’s Foot” here. Jimmy Touzel (with whom I was familiar from The Earl Brothers) takes the lead on “I Heard My Saviour Call” accompanied by the twin harmonies of Bonn and Jody Richardson. Bonn’s “5 String Step Around,” a mournful instrumental that still gets the head-a-bobbin’, closes the EP as further reminder of the vibrancy of this old-time music.

Having also heard the band on the Blue Plate Special this summer, I have become a fan of The Vivants and eagerly anticipate their next recorded release.

 

NewTown- Harlan Road review   Leave a comment

It has been a busy summer- I’ve written quite a few reviews, and done more listening than I likely should have, but I’ve done even more reading: as a result, projects around the home didn’t get accomplished. Neither did writing. (I had planned on working on my short stories/novella this summer. Hmmm…didn’t happen.)

With all the music coming my way, I haven’t found the time/energy to sit down and write about enough of it. Lazy, perhaps- I do normally try to write about 75% of what gets sent to me. (Thanks, PR folks.) I fell short this summer, so today I make the attempt to write that wrong. I’ve also been working at refining my writing, trying to write tighter; working without constraints (or an editor) I’m sometimes not as focused on ‘how’ I am writing. This weekend I decided to concentrate on the quality of my writing, taking time to be more concise in my expression.

Here we go: several reviews of roots music released over these summer months. Hopefully, something leads you to further investigation.

newtown

NewTown Harlan Road Mountain Home Music Company

Three years ago, NewTown released their first label album having previously knocked out an independent project. That Pisgah release was notable for a decent cover of “Dublin Blues,” not an easy song to ‘grassify, and the songs of bandmember C.J. Cain, particularly the pairing of “Thin Red Line” and “The Widow’s Ghost.” It was a fine album in of itself one showing plenty of promise for the future.

As tends to happen in bluegrass and for a variety of reasons I’m sure, the only returnees from Time Machine are the fronting one-two singing punch of spouses Kati Penn (fiddle) and Jr. Williams (banjo.) New this time are guitarist Hayes Griffon, bass player Travis Anderson, and mandolinist Mitchell Cannon with Barry Bales producing. The chief songwriter on Harlan Road is Tyler Childers (a singer-songwriter from Kentucky you really should listen to if you haven’t) with four credits while Cain also contributes a pair.

A strength of the group is the diversity having two capable lead vocalists, and NewTown takes full advantage of this, allowing Penn and Williams to balance off each other throughout the recording. A contemporary-sounding bluegrass band, NewTown doesn’t wander too far from the core of the music—rural events, hard-living, simple pleasures. The instrumental “The Feast of the Gryphon” is expansive enough for the members to work together while showcasing themselves, including the songwriter Griffon. (Did you catch that? Nicely done, Hayes.) Key cuts: “Can’t Let Go,” “Harlan Road,” “The Crows and the Jakes,” and “Drifter Blues.”

Audie Blaylock & Redline- The Road That Winds review   1 comment

It has been a busy summer- I’ve written quite a few reviews, and done more listening than I likely should have, but I’ve done even more reading: as a result, projects around the home didn’t get accomplished. Neither did writing. (I had planned on working on my short stories/novella this summer. Hmmm…didn’t happen.)

With all the music coming my way, I haven’t found the time/energy to sit down and write about enough of it. Lazy, perhaps- I do normally try to write about 75% of what gets sent to me. (Thanks, PR folks.) I fell short this summer, so today I make the attempt to write that wrong. I’ve also been working at refining my writing, trying to write tighter; working without constraints (or an editor) I’m sometimes not as focused on ‘how’ I am writing. This weekend I decided to concentrate on the quality of my writing, taking time to be more concise in my expression.

Here we go: several reviews of roots music released over these summer months. Hopefully, something leads you to further investigation.

audie

Audie Blaylock & Redline The Road That Winds Patuxent Music

Audie Blaylock & Redline returns with their fifth album in eight years. Like the previous releases, The Road That Winds is a bluegrass album firmly down the dotted, middle line—it holds a steady course without drifting toward the edges, meeting anything in its way head on. Blaylock comes from the Jimmy Martin school, and his music will always be rooted in that tradition. However, over the course of their evolution, the younger members of the group—and obviously, Blaylock, too—have kept their sights on progressing with their music, ensuring they remain relevant as artists and entertainers. It’s straight-ahead bluegrass, but forward looking in execution. Banjoist Evan Ward has returned to Redline, while the impressive Patrick McAvinue continues on fiddle and mandolin. Reed Jones is the bass player, and also contribute four original songs including the inspirational (co-write with Blaylock) “Life Without a Spare” and “The Ties That Bind.” Bob Amos’ “Where the Wild River Rolls,” previously recorded by Hot Rize a quarter century ago and Elton John/Bernie Taupin’s “Daniel” will be familiar to most. As typical of Blaylock albums, this one comes in around 34 minutes; one would think they could have squeezed out another couple songs. Key cuts: those mentioned and “Cousin Sally Brown” and “Ride and Roll.”