Archive for the ‘Compass Records’ Tag

Bobby Osborne- Original review   Leave a comment

Bobby O

My review of Original, Bobby Osborne’s Compass Records album, has been posted to the Country Standard Time website, linked here. It is a good album, but not a great one. There is much to enjoy musically, and Osborne’s voice has lost little of its power. Musically, there is less bluegrass drive throughout this recording, but the musicianship is exceptional. Still, the album is a bit uneven. Out of the ten songs, four of them are indispensable, and another couple are pretty good. It comes down to taste and preference, but I could have done without the Bee Gees and Elvis covers and they really take the shine off the album, for me.

I’ve reviewed previous Bobby Osborne sets here and here and I know I have also done so elsewhere, but I can’t locate them online. Oh, there’s another one here.

Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald


Infamous Stringdusters- Laws of Gravity review   Leave a comment

Over at Fervor Coulee Bluegrass, I have posted my review of The Infamous Stringduster’s seventh album, Laws of GravityIt is a pretty terrific album, one that continues their evolution within their definition of bluegrass, newgrass, jam-band, big tent acoustic Americana. I quite enjoyed the album.

In preparation of writing the review, I went back to the shelves and was surprised to find that I had only three of their previous albums, the debut Fork in the Road and its follow-up The Infamous Stringdusters as well as both the download of Silver Sky and the deluxe edition which came with the live album We’ll Do It Live.

I must have misplaced their third album somewhere, because when I purchased the download earlier this month, it sounded immediately familiar. I share this because I think sometimes folks feel that writers, even we of the freelance variety, get all their music free. I certainly don’t. [I was serviced with Laws of Gravity; that is why I wrote about it.]

In order to write this review, I purchased downloads of Things That Fly, Let It Go, Undercover, and Ladies & Gentlemen. I did that to ensure that my perspective on Laws of Gravity was fully informed. I will never, ever make back that $3o from my review of Laws of Gravity (once upon a time…O, how I sometimes long for 2005!), but in order to write about a band I need to understand their music.

Apparently, I stopped intently listening to The Infamous Stringdusters some time ago, and I am now- having listened to their albums for the past three weeks- regretful of that: won’t happen again. I am listening to their set from last year’s DelFest as I type these words, and I am reminded of how impressed I was the first time I heard them live- maybe on WDVX- and how incredible their concert in Red Deer was almost a decade ago. They are a great band- not necessarily ‘bluegrass’ as I understand it, but a damned fine group of musicians and singers. Check out my review over at Fervor Coulee Bluegrass, and feel free to let me know what you think.

Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald

The Infamous Stringdusters “Laws of Gravity” Compass Records by Donald Teplyske

Over the course of a decade and six previous albums, The Infamous Stringdusters have continually evolved their vision of acoustic string music. There is no one quite like them.

Their early albums for Sugar Hill were most identifiably bluegrass, and the group was embraced for their modern interpretation. They received three International Bluegrass Music awards for their debut recording, including Song and Album of the Year, and were nominated for Best Country Instrumental at the 2011 Grammy Awards.

Subsequently, and recording independently, the band’s global vision of the music’s place in the big tent of Americana was lauded by the industry. Their music remained gripping if slightly less recognizable as ‘bluegrass’ as elements of the jam band environ became more apparent.

Most recently, the five members of the Stringdusters received accolades for their previous Compass recording, “Ladies & Gentlemen,” a well-received, wide-ranging collection on which they support vocalists, from Claire Lynch, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and Joan Osborne to Sarah Jarosz, Aoife O’Donovan and Sara Watkins.

The group has long been recognized as one of the most energetic live groups, and while their approach has never been remotely traditional, they have consistently been a popular draw and have broadened the appreciation of the music into venues and festivals that one doesn’t necessarily associate with ‘grass.

“Laws of Gravity” is their most complete and consistent recording since 2010, an intense bluegrass flavour for those looking for the unconventional within modern acoustic sounds. It builds on the growth the group experienced through “Silver Sky” and “Let It Go,” but the songs are more succinct musically, and consequently memorable. You can hear bluegrass’s influence on every song, but few are going to suggest this is the music of a bluegrass band.

The disc kicks-off with the ‘cold’ opening of Jeremy Garrett launching into “Freedom,” a rousing, spirited song floating along lively banjo notes from Chris Pandolfi.

Co-written with Jon Weisberger, “A Hard Life Makes a Good Song” speaks truth within the parameters of a fairly conventional (for the Stringdusters) bluegrass song. Garrett’s fiddle is featured prominently, while guitarist Andy Falco is also provided considerable room to manoeuvre. DJs, listen up.

Falco takes the lead on “This Ol’ Building,” an introspective song that we should all consider before embrace the next thing to come along: intentional or not, there are political overtones to this one. The collective, gospel quality of the vocal arrangement is powerful and lasting in its impact.

With four lead vocalists, Stringduster albums always have considerable diversity within their recordings, an appealing element for those of us who feel an attraction to variety. What remains consistent and unifying is the power of their presentation, even when things threaten to spiral away as in “Gravity,” a Travis Book sung number that has as much in common with The Moody Blues as it does the String Cheese Incident. Nothing wrong with some unbridled fervor.

Andy Hall does a commendable job on his lead pieces. “Black Elk” is epic, and his intense delivery, in counterpoint to Pandolfi’s banjo notes and the mid-song dreamy instrumental interlude, only magnifies the impact. “Vertigo” is pointedly poetic and “Let Me Know” is similarly appealing.

Co-writing with folks both well-known and less so (Becky Buller, Sarah Sisking, Travis McKeveny, Josh Shilling, Athena Desai) The Infamous Stringdusters have solidified their place as one of the most engaging, intriguing bands making modern acoustic music that includes elements of bluegrass while reflecting shards of influence from far beyond. The group retains their identifiable sound while further redefining acoustic Americana.

This isn’t my father-in-law’s bluegrass. It isn’t so much even my bluegrass, as I tend to be much more traditional in what I view through a bluegrass lens.

Nope, this is Infamous Stringdusters music, and they lay out newgrass with a side of jam-band like no one else. Laws are for society and science, not music. “Laws of Gravity” is a heady, enthusiastic album filled with energy and passion.

Reviews recently posted elsewhere   Leave a comment

I was asked to contribute some reviews to Lonesome Road Review recently. I am likely writing a little less for LLR and Country Standard Time than I had in the past, but I do find time to get a couple or three done monthly. These days, there is little to no money in freelance writing on the level I do it-back in the early to mid-aughts I had a steady little stream of revenue coming from various publications, but that has pretty much dried up. Fortunately for me, I have a true career to pay the bills, and I am able to leave paying jobs to those who actually are writing for a living…and who are usually a bit better at it than I am.


Anyhow, two new reviews have been posted. The Special Consensus is one of my favourite bluegrass bands going back almost twenty years, and their most recent Compass Records release Long I Ride is another really strong recording. Last year Darrell Scott released 10: Songs of Ben Bullington, a masterful recording that I’ve been listening to monthly if not weekly since it came out. We don’t usually review albums so long after release, but Aaron sent it to me and therefore I did; I hope I did the album justice. I also failed to link in my review of Scott’s latest, Couchville Sessions. Sigh. Here it is. Or, if I did, the search tool isn’t finding it.


In cleaning up Fervor Coulee at year end, I can’t find my review of Josh Williams’ Modern Day Man cross-posted. Country Standard Time had me write about it on release, so if you missed it, there it is.


And finally, I hope- my review of Dori Freeman’s debut was posted at Lonesome Road Review, but I neglected to link it here. I’m not very good at this, am I?

Anyhow, all these albums are worth your consideration, no matter when you locate the reviews. Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald

Catching Up on Missed Cross-Posts   3 comments

I try to link through everything I write for Lonesome Road Review, Country Standard Time, and Fervor Coulee Bluegrass here at Fervor Coulee, but inevitably some items get missed. While watching the new Bear Family DVD of BR5-49’s live 1996 German show, I thought I would try to catch some of the missed links.

I’m a big fan of Dale Ann Bradley, a great admirer of not only her bluegrass talent but of the person. I wrote a review of her latest, now Grammy-nominated, album Pocket Full of Keys.

My review of Steve Martin and Edie Brickell’s uninspired second album is over at CST. I try to be positive, but it doesn’t always work out- gotta call it like I hear it. Ditto one from the Vickie Vaughn band. A tribute to the Carter Family by Antique Persuasion, featuring a trio of respected roots types, was also missed.

Low Lily is a band I don’t know too much about, but my review of their debut EP is up at Lonesome Road Review. Mr. Sun is a quasi-grass string band led by Darol Anger. The Traditional Grass were an outstanding trad bluegrass band, and Rebel recently released a compilation. I also reviewed Allison Moorer’s and Shelby Lynne’s latest releases late last summer.

Some of my links to LRR pieces have gone dead; I’ll try to fix that over the Christmas break.

Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. donald

Joy of Living: Tribute to Ewan MacColl review   Leave a comment

If you are not familiar with Ewan MacColl, you really owe it to yourself to do some Google searching. He was a terrific songwriter and a central figure-some may argue ‘the’ central figure-in the revival of the British folk music tradition. He was also a big of a cad, I’ve read, but since few of us are ideal human beings, let’s just enjoy the music. Compass Records recently released (in North America) Joy of Living, a two-disc set of MacColl songs recorded by the crème of modern British folk. My review is up at Lonesome Road Review. It is fair brilliant, and because of the album I discovered my latest favourite band, Bombay Bicycle Club.

Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald

Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley- Before the Sun Goes Down review   Leave a comment

rob and tryReleased last week, the debut album from bluegrass veteran Rob Ickes and his new partner in song Trey Hensley is in all ways exceptional. My review has been posted to Country Standard Time, and the following link should get you there:

Thank you for visiting Fervor Coulee.

Recent Roots Writing   Leave a comment

I haven’t done a great deal of writing during the past month, but I have placed a few pieces recently.

I posted my review of Phil Leadbetter’s new album The Next Move over at Fervor Coulee untitledBluegrass. With a bluegrass heart at the core of the album, Leadbetter and his many collaborators have created a wonderful disc that should find favour with those who are open to strong country influences. The reigning IBMA Dobro Player of the year has done very well here, and has enlisted strong singers including John Cowan, Steve Gulley, Dale Ann Bradley, Con Hunley, and especially Shawn Camp to give voice to the songs.

A few reviews went up at the Lonesome Road Review over the last month.

My take on Alice Gerrard’s new album Follow the Music is something you may be interested in if you appreciate strong folk music with an old-time bent. If you are not familiar with Gerrard, she has been a mainstay in the old-time music world for more than forty years, and prior to alicethat was without a doubt ‘a pioneering woman of bluegrass’ through her long association with the dearly missed Hazel Dickens. Not one to rest on her laurels, Gerrard has teamed with the principals of Hiss Golden Messenger to produce an album every bit as compelling as last year’s Bittersweet.

Fayssoux McClain may not be familiar to you, but if you have listened to the early albums from Emmylou Harris, you’ve heard her voice. Recording under her given name, Fayssoux has found a homealbumart with the Red Beet Records conglomeration- Peter Cooper and Eric Brace. If you are missing country sounds and tradition in the ‘country’ music of today, I Can’t Wait may be what you should be seeking.

Dublin’s I Draw Slow, beyond having a non-traditional sounding name for a bluegrass band also have a rather non-traditional draw slowapproach to the music. Still, there is something here that will be of interest to those who come to the music with rather open ears. I won’t be listening to this album as frequently as I do the music of James Reams, Flatt & Scruggs, or Dale Ann Bradley, but I found a great deal to appreciate within their album White Wave Chapel.

Walter Salas-Humara has been a central figure within the world that was once (for a few years) classified as, roots rock, or No Depression music. As the mainstay and chief songwriter for The Silos, Salas-Humara has released a whole lot of music walterover the last (almost) 30 years. Curve and Shake is his latest solo release, and it is a grand recording that I find myself returning to weeks after writing the review, a rare occurrence.

On second thought, I guess I have been doing enough writing these past weeks! Still, there are many albums sitting on the pile awaiting my attention- just need to find the time.

Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald