Archive for the ‘Bluegrass’ Tag

Recent reviews at CST- Junior Sisk, Larry Cordle, & Jim Lauderdale, incl. w. Roland White   Leave a comment

Jim Lauderdale- Time Flies http://www.countrystandardtime.com/d/cdreview.asp?xid=6762

Jim Lauderdale & Roland White- self-titled, from 1979 http://www.countrystandardtime.com/d/cdreview.asp?xid=6763

Larry Cordle- Tales From East Kentucky http://www.countrystandardtime.com/d/cdreview.asp?xid=6753

Junior Sisk- Brand New Shade of Blue http://www.countrystandardtime.com/d/cdreview.asp?xid=6747

 

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Three country albums I recommend   Leave a comment

The dearth of quality country music has been examined sixteen ways from Sunday over too many years. Yes, there is good stuff to be found and sometimes even on the charts—Chris Stapleton, Margo Price, Elizabeth Cook, to name three—but so much of what passes for country today…okay, you stopped me: thanks—you’ve heard this one before.

This weekend the annual ‘country music jamboree’ happens about a hundred kilometres from me, and that means the mainstream media will trip over themselves to profile the tens of thousands who travel, camp, and party for three or four days. All this for a lineup that I wouldn’t walk across the field to listen to, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band excepted. (I’ll be heading a hundred klicks down different highways for a bluegrass fest that will be largely ignored by the MSM. And that’s okay—who am I to judge? Although I will.)

Today, three country albums that I think you should consider. Country music isn’t any one thing, but dammit it has to be good. What’s the point otherwise?

YvetteLandry_LouisianaLovin_front-510x452Yvette Landry & the Jukes featuring Roddie Romero Louisiana Lovin’ Soko Music

Coming from Louisiana, Yvette Landry & the Jukes featuring Roddie Romero’s debut album is a platter that will appeal to anyone who craves a modern spin on ‘fifties and early ‘sixties rock ‘n’ roll filtered through a country foundation. Think Brenda Lee with the Everlys or Bobby Charles with Mandy Barnett. This isn’t hayseed country (much as I can love that) but Ameripolitan (is that how Dale Watson spells it?) with a heavy dose of the vibe I associate with Memphis soul, not to mention a bit of a Cajun kick.

Fronting a crackerjack band including Derek Huston (saxophones) and Josef Butts (deep bass), Landry (“Three Chords and the Truth,” the Sara Evans song from two decades ago) and Romero (“Homesick Blues,” the first of four Bobby Charles covers, and that ain’t too many) trade off on the leads while coming together on several sweet songs (“I Almost Lost My Mind” among them) in duets from which honey drips. The album notes label it ‘Louisiana swamp pop,’ but to my ears it nuzzles up to that warm and troubled place that only true country music reaches.

The guitar work from Romero is especially lively, whether on plaintive tracks including Charles’ “Grow To Old,” one which Huston again shines, and Jermaine Prejean is a tasteful drummer, ideal for this set. Eric Adcock adds various keys including Wurlitzer.

Louisiana Lovin’ is an exceptional album that is most obviously an endeavour of passion and heart. Yvette Landry & the Jukes featuring Roddie Romero love this type of music, delivering a set of music that is firmly rooted in traditions while sounding eminently appealing for contemporary audiences.

Blue YonderBlue Yonder Rough and Ready Heart New Song Recordings

Traditional-based (think Merle, Buck, George, and Johnny Darrell) country music isn’t frequently encountered unless you search it out, and it takes some effort to find the good stuff. Good thing folks like these populate the hither and yon. Trust me, here: Blue Yonder deserves a listen, or seven.

West Virginia-based Blue Yonder, a trio comprised of songwriter John Lilly (rhythm guitars and lead vocals), Robert Shafer (electric), and Will Carter (bass and harmony) augmented by Tony Creasman (drums), have released a strong, wide-ranging country album.

With the twang of Billy Cowsill and Marty Brown mixed with Rex Hobart’s honky tonk attitude, John Lilly is a force to be appreciated. Blue Yonder’s efforts are made more significant comprised as they are by original songs of quality including “Lonely Hour,” “Rough and Ready Heart,” and Memories and Moonlight.”

With the spirit of “Me and Bobby McGee” running through it, the lead track “Standing On the Side of the Road” highlights the freedom of specific moments in time. Elsewhere, emotional connection and responsibility are lost, as in “Windswept.” “Well-Acquainted with the Blues” has Lilly making considered word choices to advance his hardwood testimony, in shuffle time. “Tombstone Charlie” and “Green Light,” with a rockabilly beat, speed things up from the album’s mid-tempo majority.

Rough and Ready Heart is a magnificent little album of throwback country. Love it.

DuffDennis K. Duff Songs from Lyon County Gracey Holler Music

A connection to place is as essential to songwriting as it is to literature. That Dennis Duff relates to his home area is obvious listening to this songwriter’s showcase.

Anyone can hire a band, just make sure you have cash on hand. But, Duff has outdone himself here: Colby Kilby (co-producer, guitar, banjo, mandolin, Dobro) [and, as an aside, should be at Blueberry this weekend with the Travelin’ McCourys], Jason Carter (fiddle) [also, all things McCoury], Alan Bartram (bass, harmony) [ditto, McCourys] and Andy Leftwich (fiddle.) A finer bluegrass band possible? And more than being ‘slingers for hire,’ these musicians fully commit to Duff and his songs.

Now, all that talent can also be easily wasted. Not so here. Duff has the songs, and a home-hewn voice as natural as his subject matter. I quite like his singing style, unpolished as it may be. “Mr. TVA” looks at the effect of moving people off their land, and “Road to Dover” explores the land of memory. “When the river took the barn, the crib and all the corn, Daddy finally said, ‘It’s time to leave,'” shows the ties that bind people to their home in  “37 Flood.” Duff’s take on betrayal, revenge, and incarceration “Castle on the Cumberland” is outstanding.

Additionally, Duff calls on guests to give voice to a few of his songs, an unconventional approach to be certain as he doesn’t appear on five of the album’s nine songs.

 Far as I am concerned, Brooke and Darin Aldridge haven’t taken a wrong step in almost ten years. That continues with their taking charge of “TC and Pearl,” a telling of familial bonds and faith. Paul Brewster [who should also be at Blueberry this weekend with Kentucky Thunder] take a couple leads, the spirited lead track “Wilson Holler” and “Iron Hill.” Bradley Walker is joined by Holly Pitney on another song revealing a strong bond with the land, this one the gentle closing number “When I Leave Kentucky.”

One of the album’s strongest performances is delivered by Mountain Heart’s Josh Shilling. “Night Riders” is a historically-based tale of tobacco farmers working collectively against the force of ‘big tobacco’ to monopolize the industry, and Shilling nails the desperation of those protecting their own and facing down a foe with injustice on their side.

Also worthy of note is the strong artwork by Leeah Duff. Song samples available.

Bluegrass is country music, and on this concise album Dennis K. Duff delves into his family’s experiences to bring the past out of faded memories. At its best, bluegrass (and country music and literature) do this consistently, teaching listeners about events and lives that can be far outside our own. It isn’t ham-fisted at all, it’s taking a slice of someone’s life and making it relevant for others. Songs From Lyon County, featuring several world-class voices- including Duff’s- stellar bluegrass instrumentation, and high quality, original songs can’t be lost in the shuffle. Find it. Now. (Okay, you can be forgiven for waiting until it is available September 7.)

There you go, three country music albums that I suggest will be better than anything heard at Big Valley Jamboree this coming weekend. Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee.

 

Favourite Roots Albums of 2018, so far   1 comment

It’s July 1. The year is half over and during the past six months some terrific music has been released. While I have heard my share of the roots music that has come out, I haven’t heard it all. I do have my favourites and that is what I share today: Fervor Coulee’s Favourite Roots releases of 2018, so far. In no particular order…

GauthierMary Gauthier- Rifles & Rosary Beads An ambitious undertaking that has received its fair share of attention. Co-writing with American veterans and their families, Gauthier has created a piece of art greater than its parts. Of course, none of it would be as significant if the songs themselves were weak or if Gauthier faltered in their delivery. No worries. Gauthier’s indomitable performances bridge the gap between those of us who have never considered serving in the military, and those whose lives have inalterably changed because of their sacrifices. Key tracks: “Got Your Six” “The War After the War” “Brothers” (purchased download)

JohnnyCash-ForeverWordsVarious Artists- Johnny Cash Forever Words: The Music Excepting the typically overwrought Elvis Costello track (When he sang—prior to about 2000—there were few who had greater regard for him, but he lost me a long time ago—his voice is shot, he mistakes emoting for expression, and has completely lost the plot on what even sounds ‘good’) this collection provides an hour of entertainment and contemplation. Comprised of unrecorded Cash ‘songs’—lyrics, poems, or musings, depending—that were—for the most part—fleshed out by the various performers, one is transported into a series of ethereal collaborations that is very affecting. Again, like the Gauthier album, what matters is more than the process, it’s the music: this album enhances the Cash legacy, unlike some other more exploitive sets that have been released. Key tracks:    Alison Krauss & Union Station’s interpretation of Robert Lee Castleman’s “The Captain’s Daughter” Rosanne Cash’s “The Walking Wounded” Carlene Carter’s “June’s Sundown” Jamey Johnson “Spirit Rider” (purchased CD)

GebtryBobbie Gentry- Live At The BBC A Record Store Day release, this 12-track compilation of cuts from 1968 and 1969 are simply a fan’s greatest attainable wish. Performances—excepting “Ode to Billie Joe”—unheard since their original broadcast (so, brand new to most of us) that add to Gentry’s legacy. Her voice is huskier on these numbers, the arrangements sparser, the mood slightly playful: the effect is  even greater intimacy that that expressed through the album versions of the songs. Key tracks: “Papa Won’t You Let Me Go To Town With You” “Recollection” “Nikki Hokey” in a medley with Robert Parker’s “Barefootin'” name-checking Long John Baldry. (purchased vinyl)

Motel MirrorsMotel Mirrors- In The Meantime The second collaboration between Amy LaVere and John Paul Keith is every bit as satisfying as their first, with the added bonus of having folded Will Sexton and Shawn Zorn into the mix to become a genuine band. Americana with a heavy dose of Memphis heart, this is a country-rock album that owes much to the music that influenced it. Key tracks: “Things I Learned” “Do With Me What You Want” “The Man Who Comes Around” (purchased download)

MarielMariel Buckley- Driving In The Dark I would have felt bad had I not been able to include an Alberta artist on this list, and Mariel Buckley doesn’t place out of any obligation. I wasn’t familiar with her until late last year, but she has quickly become a Fervor Coulee favourite. Produced by Leeroy Stagger, these ten songs contain lyrical and instrumental nuances that make them individually appealing and collectively stout. There isn’t much polish herein, just as it should be. I avoid using the word ‘authentic,’ but that is what works here. Straight-forward, modern country (think Kelly Willis) for those of us who live in the past. Key tracks: “Rose Coloured Frames” “Heart Is On Fire” “Pride” (purchased download)

David DavisDavid Davis & the Warrior River Boys- Didn’t He Ramble: The Songs of Charlie Poole A welcome return for one of bluegrass music’s most consistently satisfying bands with a traditional bent (serviced with CD). My full review here. 

DuffeyVarious Artists- Epilogue: A Tribute to John Duffey A bluegrass legend and innovator gets his due, more than two decades after his passing (Serviced with download). My full review here.

JoyannJoyann Parker- Hard To Love Soulful and blue (serviced with CD). My full review here.

dancing500Gretchen Peters- Dancing With the Beast Americana/folk doesn’t get better than this, the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member’s ninth album of original material (purchased CD). My full review here.

HMT-Cover-862x785Hadley McCall Thackston- Hadley McCall Thackston A beautiful, stunning debut: like Venus, she emerges fully realized (serviced with CD). My full review here.

marewakefieldnomad_largeMare Wakefield & Nomad- Time to Fly There is so much good music, we can only hope that the best of it finds its way to us. Sometimes it is up to us to do the work. Search out this Nashville-based duo: they are worth it (serviced with CD). My full review here.

smds-album-cover-768x767Samantha Martin & Delta Sugar- Run To Me Southern Ontario’s soul revue gift to the world- lively, bright, and brassy (serviced with CD). My full review here.

DocWatson_LiveAtClub47_COVER-494x494Doc Watson Live at Club 47 There is no end to the live Doc Watson albums available, and some (Doc Watson On Stage, for one) are definitely more well-rounded than this set. However, this 1963 set recorded in Massachusetts is a welcome and indispensable addition for those of us who just can’t get enough of the deft, affable roots legend. Several of the songs contained here would remain staples of his live and recorded repertoire for the next five decades (“Little Sadie,” “Deep River Blues,” “Sittin’ On Top Of The World”) while others are less frequently encountered (“Little Margaret,” “Hop High Ladies The Cake’s All Dough,” and “Blue Smoke, for example.”) Watson’s connection to his audience would not waver throughout his career, and this early archival recording- coming in at almost 80 minutes- is riveting. (Purchased download)

 I limited myself to a  baker’s dozen albums. Look around Fervor Coulee- I have reviewed a lot of great roots music since January, and many wonderful albums just wouldn’t fit on this list: the latest from Peter Rowan, Sylvia, John Prine, Bob Rea, Sue Foley, The Lynnes, John Paul Keith, Mary Chapin Carpenter, The Travelin’ McCourys…

Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald

Curly Seckler, Don Reno, & Bobby Smith- vintage digital reviews   Leave a comment

CMH Curly

Have I mentioned lately how much I appreciate Curly Seckler? How about Marty?

Over at Fervor Coulee Bluegrass, I provide capsule reviews of three recent CMH digital bluegrass reissues- Curly Seckler & the Nashville Grass’ Take A Little Time, Don Reno & the Tennessee Cut-Ups’ 30th Anniversary Album, and Bobby Smith & the Boys From Shiloh’s Smokin’ Bluegrass. 

A good time was had.

CMH Smith

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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Milan Miller- Timepiece review   Leave a comment

timepiece-itunes-art

Milan Miller Timepiece MilanMillerMusic.com

Milan Miller is one of contemporary bluegrass music’s most recorded songwriters, with chartbusters Balsam Range having recorded more than fifteen of his songs across their albums. Others who have co-written and/or recorded his songs include Irene Kelley, Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out, Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice, and Terry Baucom. While he hasn’t yet been named IBMA’s Bluegrass Songwriter of the Year, he certainly can’t be overlooked for very much longer.

Raised in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, Miller put out a well-received album entitled Poison Cove in 2013 and followed that up with an album with Balsam Range’s Buddy Melton. Timepiece is a 6-song EP intended to get a set of songs out in a way Miller desired without interfering with his many other obligations. Terry Baucom plays banjo on three tracks as does Justin Moses, who also contributes Dobro. Aubrey Haynie (fiddle), Jim Lindsey (bass), and Darren Nicholson (mandolin) accompany Miller (acoustic guitar) throughout the recording, with Buddy Melton and Adam Wright contributing harmony.

With such a concise format, it quickly becomes apparent that there is no filler on Timepiece. Three songs co-written with Beth Husband—”Timepiece,” “Isabel Gray,” and “Baby Don’t Bake”—are entirely unlike in structure, theme, and execution, and yet all sound like they could have been written thirty or seventy years ago, and—even with such variety—are decidedly bluegrass.

Within a loping melody, ill-fated bandit Charlie Price meets his comeuppance in “Timepiece,” with the band keeping better time than his pocket watch did. “Isabel Gray,” a melancholic, fiddle-rich number about an seafaring wanderer, couldn’t be more different from the light-hearted, Texas-swing, ‘kissed-off’ homage, “Baby Don’t Bake.” With these three songs, any bluegrass band worth their weight would be off to a good start song-mining.

Co-written with Thomm Jutz, “Coon Dog Cemetery” takes a gentle, slightly eerie approach to man’s best friends’ final resting place. With Jutz and Glenn Simmons, Miller finishes his EP with “I Wish,” a bluegrass ballad that doesn’t get overly sappy: still, it is a bit sappy, and one can’t argue about that since this type of song seems universally popular within the modern bluegrass field.

Rising above these five strong songs is “Brody White,” co-written with Jeff McClellan. With the first verse put to bed, one knows that a father’s retribution will be swift and final. With an attention to detail reminiscent of Chris Knight (think “Down The River” meets “Rita’s Only Fault,” but with a stand-up dad), this song is stellar, and has immediately become my new favourite.

Timepiece is a strong showcase of Milan Miller’s songwriting. Moreover, it serves as evidence of his capabilities as a bluegrass singer. I don’t know if Miller aspires to being a bandleader—I suspect he doesn’t—but based on Timepiece, I’d step up to buy a ticket.

 

Curly Seckler, a bluegrass legend, remembered   1 comment

Curly-Seckler 1I don’t know when I first fully noticed Curly Seckler, but it may have been early in 2005 when he quipped, “Come here, you money-making thing!” to kick-off his penultimate album, Down In Caroline.

I had, of course, heard Curly Seckler prior to that. As a keen listener of bluegrass for more than a dozen years (at the time), it would have been impossible to have not heard his voice and mandolin playing.

Mr. Seckler was a long-time member of the Foggy Mountain Boys and The Nashville Grass, and I had frequently heard his mandolin and guitar playing and tenor vocals, including on the first Lester Flatt record I ‘owned’*, Lester Flatt Live! Bluegrass Festival, Lester(reissued and expanded years later by Bear Family as Live at Vanderbilt) which I acquired mostly because of the participation of a very young Marty Stuart. In hindsight, his recording of “What Would You Give In Exchange For Your Soul” (from a CMH release, and collected on Once Upon A Time) with Stuart is definitive, but to 2005 I hadn’t even given it the attention it deserved. And while his distinctive voice graced three numbers on another of my early bluegrass purchases, I overlooked Mr. Seckler amongst the more prominent (to me) bluegrassers contained on David Grisman’s Home Is Where The Heart Is collection.Home is where

(*I say ‘owned’ because I ‘borrowed’ the album from a future in-law and never seemed to remember to return it!)

So, I had seen his name listed in credits, but hadn’t really paid attention. I think I knew he had played and recorded with Charlie Monroe, and had learned his “A Purple Heart” had been recorded with the McReynolds. When Down in Caroline came my way for review, I was given plenty of reason to concentrate on his voice, his playing, and to research his history and place in bluegrass music.

Within days, Mr. Seckler went from a vaguely familiar name on paper as a sideman to a personal favourite.

Curly Caroline

When Mr. Seckler passed at the end of 2017, two days past his 98th birthday, appropriate testaments were written in his honour in The Tennessean, at Bluegrass Today, and elsewhere. Others much more able have recounted his life and legacy; I simply share my personal reflections and perspective on the IBMA Hall of Fame member

I can’t locate my contemporaneous review of Down In Caroline in my archives, but listening to it again these past weeks I know I am even more impressed by it now than I was a dozen years ago.

Released on Copper Creek, the album was produced when Mr. Seckler was 85 years old. I don’t know what I will be doing when I am 85—should I be fortunate enough to reach that milestone—but I know I won’t be singing as good as he was: few have. It is an outstanding album, full of choice moments—as when he and Dudley Connell come together at around the 30 second mark of “Valley Of Peace”, and when Josh McMurray’s banjo kicks off “He Took Your Place,” soon followed by Seckler and Larry Sparks bringing chills on the chorus—and historical moments, too. Through studio freshening, a 1971 tape of Mr. Seckler singing tenor with Bill Monroe on “Sitting On Top of The World” closes the set as a hidden chestnut, and Connell also leads the group through an impromptu take of “Dig A Hole in the Meadow.”

Rather than serving as a monument to a fading talent, Down In Caroline revealed Mr. Seckler as a vibrant bluegrass force in his ninth decade. The excellent liner notes from co-producer (and biographer) Penny Parsons share that Seckler continued writing up to the sessions, finishing “Letter to the Captain” just prior to recording it in 2004. Enough material was recorded to prompt a second volume, entitled Bluegrass, Don’t You Know, the following year. (More on that in a bit.)

When Seckler takes the lead vocal position, it is obvious that we are hearing a master: one listen to “Worries on My Mind” and “China Grove, My Home” serve as evidence. Couple all of this with a playful take of “Hold the Woodpile Down” lead by Doc Watson (culled from a previous session for a Larry Perkins album), and you have as memorable bluegrass album recorded by an octogenarian as I have encountered: across forty minutes, it never drags, sags, or fades.

Curly That Old Book

Around the same time, a collection on County Records assembled  material from an outstanding 1971 recording with the Shenandoah Cut-Ups titled Curly Seckler Sings Again.  On That Old Book of Mine, these eleven tracks were supplemented by five tunes recorded with Willis Spears in 1989, taken from the album Tribute to Lester Flatt.  The music, ranging from standards like ”Salty Dog Blues” and “Don’t This Road Look Rough and Rocky” to less familiar fare such as Bill Monroe’s “Remember the Cross” and his own “What’s The Matter Now”, was of another era and yet timeless.

While Mr. Seckler was an appealing and certainly capable lead vocalist, he was best known as a superior tenor singer, something very much in evidence here.  For good reason, Stuart called him the greatest tenor singer of all time. On the 1971 numbers, Billy Edwards (banjo) takes the lead on many, with Seckler’s rich tenor soaring over the top.   Tater Tate (fiddle), Hershel Sizemore (mandolin)) and John Palmer (bass) provide the instrumental accompaniment alongside Seckler’s guitar.

By 1989, Seckler was singing only tenor, with Spears’ powerful voice in the lead position.  Seckler played mandolin on these tunes with Spears handling guitar, and Seckler’s vocal contributions were again flawless.  Rounding out these sessions were Ron Stewart (fiddle), Perkins (banjo), and Phillip Staff (bass).

All instrumentation on this volume was well-recorded and of the quality most often associated with classic, traditional bluegrass music of the era.  No one got too flashy, with the focus on the melding of voices with smooth harmony.  This was especially evident on “Give Me The Roses While I Live” and “No Mother In This World.”

Curly Bluegrass Dont

A final album, Bluegrass, Don’t You Know and also on Copper Creek, followed in 2006 and was just as powerful as the preceding Down In Caroline. This set—again a mix of classic songs made fresh, and fresh material certifiably classic—was highlighted by one of Larry Cordle’s finest vocal turns, taking the lead on the title track, a new Seckler composition. Lyrically adroit and instrumentally noteworthy, the song encapsulates sixty years of bluegrass evolution charged by an electrifying tenor performance from Mr. Seckler. “Honey, don’t you know,” he sings as a vocal refrain as instrumentalists, including some of bluegrass music’s finest—Perkins, Rob Ickes (Dobro), Brent Truitt (mandolin), Laura Weber Cash (fiddle), Chris Sharp (guitar), and Kent Blanton (bass)—drop in allusions to Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs, Bill Monroe, Kenny Baker and others who made the music what it always should be. “They say it ain’t country, but it’s bluegrass don’t you know,” indeed!

Mr. Seckler’s signature song “A Purple Heart” appears. Also included is “That Old Book of Mine” which dates from his time with Flatt & Scruggs, as do “Bouquet in Heaven,” “What’s the Matter With You Darlin’,” “Why Did You Wander,” “Brother, I’m Getting Ready to Go,” and “Why Can’t We Be Darlings Anymore,” all faithfully executed with exceptional performances from those who were selected to support Mr. Seckler on these sessions. Noteworthy is “Brother, I’m Getting Ready to Go” performed by the trio of Larry Sparks, Larry Perkins, and Mr. Seckler, with Sparks taking the lead position instrumentally (a stunning example of his signature guitar style) and vocally.

The autobiographical “The Way It Was” features twin fiddles from Sharp and Tater Tate, and like every song on this collection, its melody lingers long after it is heard. Appropriately for an album that showcases Mr. Seckler’s talents as a lead vocalist, the album closes with another new number, the vocally challenging “The Old Man Has Retired.” Perhaps not the smoothest performance amongst those captured in the 2004 sessions, the honesty of a well-lived life is on display as Mr. Seckler sings the song exactly as he wanted.

In the fall of 2005, I had the pleasure and honour of hearing the (by then) 86-year old’s still powerful tenor in Nashville at the IBMA’s World of Bluegrass. I don’t recall what he sang, or with whom, but I do remember that I got to shake the man’s hand, and he signed my copies of Down in Caroline and That Old Book of Mine. I cherish my brief encounter with Mr. Seckler, and these mentioned recordings are testament to the man’s talent and legacy.

Since then I’ve sought out recordings featuring Mr. Seckler; of course, here in central Alberta, one doesn’t come across them often. There are the dozens of recordings he made with Flatt & Scruggs, and I am fully entertained when I slip my Best of Flatt & Scruggs TV Show DVDs into my player. Somewhere on the internet, I found a homey recording he made with banjoist Cranford Nix including memorable takes of “Do You Wonder Why” and “Shady Grove.”

LESTER_FLATT_FLATT+GOSPEL-461535

A couple summers ago, while vacationing on Vancouver Island, I came across a copy of Flatt Gospel, an album by Lester Flatt & the Nashville Grass on the Canaan label, hidden away in a roadside cafe/record shop, and while the asking price was undoubtedly too dear by half, I haven’t regretted the purchase. Hearing Mr. Seckler on “I’m Going That Way,” “Brother, I’m Getting Ready to Go,” “Awaiting the Boatman,” and other gospel songs is truly priceless.

His recordings as the leader of The Nashville Grass are not groundbreaking, but are fine examples of his traditional bluegrass style; I can listen to he and Kenny Ingram, Stuart, Paul Warren and the rest any time. Three years ago, his final recorded sessions were included on Sparks’ ideally titled Lonesome and Then Some album, “Dim Lights, Thick Smoke,” and “I’m Gonna Sing, Sing, Sing.” I feel Mr. Seckler’s voice added just the right dimension to the choruses of these songs, and again connecting bluegrass’ past to its present.

When I hear a bluegrass album featuring Curly Seckler—whether as part of Flatt & Scruggs, with Flatt in the Nashville Grass, or later as the leader of that band, or on one of these solo recordings or in a guest appearance—I lean in close because I know what I am going to experience is perfect bluegrass.

With Mr. Seckler’s death, another link to the ‘first generation’ of bluegrass is severed. Fortunately, there are many recordings featuring Mr. Secker available, if not readily, and decades of vinyl to uncover while perusing dusty bins on Saturday afternoons. I’ll continue to seek out his recordings, and to listen to his voice and his mandolin and guitar playing—I hope—until I’m 98.

{Thank you to Penny Parsons for her timely sharing of the notes to Bluegrass, Don’t You Know and her obituary for Mr. Seckler: much appreciated.}