Archive for the ‘Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice’ Tag

Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice- The Mountains Are Calling Me review   Leave a comment

jr sisk

Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice The Mountains Are Calling Me Home Mountain Fever Records

Having released seven albums under his own name in the past decade, as well as recording as a member of Santa Cruz and Blue Ridge, Junior Sisk has the pattern down. One of bluegrass music’s most recognizable and appreciated vocalists, his albums balance the expected elements: traditionally-rooted bluegrass with ballads stirring soulful memories, up-tempo, catchy numbers sparked by stellar instrumentation, and sincere gospel reflections to speak to believers.

The Mountains Are Calling Me Home doesn’t deviate from this template, nor should it. What the album lacks in surprise or innovation, it more than compensates with energy and precision. A mark of Sisk albums is the strength of the material, and this is again readily apparent.

Sisk almost always includes a Daniel Salyer song on his albums, and this time out there are a pair. “What Goes Around Comes Around” is the lead track, and puts the familiar cliché to good use. Elevating the number are Sisk’s smooth, soaring vocals—especially on the chorus—and the songwriter’s decision to move past the expected wordplay to craft a song that is universal and emotionally relevant. A second song, “Shape Up or Ship Out,” again plays with familiar language, and will appeal to a segment of the bluegrass festival audience; it isn’t a song that advances the music, but it does encapsulate the frustration of its protagonist and features attractive fiddling from Jamie Harper. In a similar vein, “I’m Not Listening Anymore” (a Ronnie Bowman/Tim Stafford co-write) captures a failing relationship from a different perspective.

The album’s title track is the album’s feature number. Written by J.R. Slatterwhite, Jr.—a songwriter that I (unfortunately) know nothing about—one immediately comprehends what attracted Sisk to the song. Emphasizing human experience and frailty, the song speaks to the familiar bluegrass theme of the wandering son. Familiar songs include “It’s So Cold,” a track recorded by Blue Ridge on their Common Ground album, and “You’ll Be A Lost Ball,” a bluegrass standard. “What a Way to Go” is not the same song Ray Kennedy snuck into the Country Top Ten in 1991, (and one only wonders what could a bluegrass band do with that one), but is similarly a rollicking, energetic number that could find success at radio.

As Sisk was physically unable to play guitar during the album’s recording, Aaron Ramsey was brought in, and is much appreciated on numbers including “Darling Do You Know Who Loves You” and “Money (Will Not Save You.)” Johnathan Dillon’s mando on the latter gospel number is also worthy of notice, while Jason Davis’ banjo playing drives the album.

The Mountains Are Calling Me Home continues Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice’s string of well-considered and successful bluegrass projects; it should appeal to his fan base and would be a fine album for those just finding their way in the bluegrass world.

Thank you for finding Fervor Coulee, where it is all about the music. Donald

 

 

 

Blueberry Bluegrass & Country Music Festival, Stony Plain, AB August 2-4, 2013   Leave a comment

Prairie%20Sky%20Home%20Page%20PhotoI truly became a bluegrass music fan while attending the Blueberry Bluegrass fest in the late ’90s; while I had heard the music before, it was on those often wet, occasionally sunny August long weekends beginning in 1997 that my appreciation for the music was extended and solidified. I attended the festival faithfully for six or seven years, and the 2000 fest inspired my father-in-law and I to get things moving with a bluegrass society in Red Deer. However, as times changed, and especially as personalities involved evolved- and I became overloaded a little on the music- I stopped attending: while the names within the festival’s line-up became bigger and bigger, the spirit of the festival seemed to be lacking the previous magic. Following 2003’s excellent ‘farewell’ Tames’ fester, I found other events to fill my summer music needs, largely folk festivals in Edmonton and Calgary and the Shady Grove Bluegrass fest. I returned for a day in 2007, but haven’t been back since.

This summer, I am more seriously than in recent years considering making the drive north to Stony Plain for at least a day this August long weekend: I know I couldn’t do a whole weekend, no matter how strong the line-up. I have, in the intervening years, become burned out attending large folk festivals, and found myself less tolerant of morons attending the same (even small) shows as I at Kansas City’s Middle of the Map fest so I know that one day of crowds, even those gathered for the bliss that is bluegrass, is my maximum.

This year’s Blueberry schedule follows a pattern of recent years: three ‘big name’ bluegrass bands, a couple or three ‘second and third tier’ groups, several local bands, and some country artists who usually play opening act during country fairs and the like. Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, The Boxcars, and Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice comprise the ‘big name’ category, and I would really like to catch Sisk and his boys as well as The Boxcars. The Whites are travelling with Skaggs (I presume) and they don’t tour very widely, so they may be a good catch this time out. Jeff Scroggins & Colorado is a band whose name seldom comes up, so I can’t say anything one way or another about them: Scroggins played with the Blue Canyon Boys and KC Groves was with Uncle Earl, as well as performing on her own. Some time ago, Groves released an album that I reviewed for Bluegrass Now that I quite liked. I am hopeful that they’ll be a nice surprise.

The Spinney Brothers are also performing, but they have never done a lot for me; I just find them one-dimensional, without a lot of harmony depth. Locally, I’d like to catch up with the gals and Kenny from Prairie Sky and Black Lightening, too.

The complete Blueberry Bluegrass schedule is available on their website.

So, if you attend Blueberry- especially on the Sunday- keep an eye open for me. I’ll be the guy shaking my head at the folks talking all through the concert sets.

Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald