Archive for the ‘Mountain Home’ Tag

The Grascals- Before Breakfast review   Leave a comment

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The Grascals Before Breakfast Mountain Home Music Company

The Grascals can be counted on to deliver, every eighteen months or so, another collection of mountain solid, formidable and smooth bluegrass.

Over nine albums and one very fun EP, The Grascals have consistently been one of bluegrass music’s stellar outfits. While not everything they have ever attempted has resonated with me (I felt their The Grascals and Friends country-hybrid project was—to be generous—uneven) there are few bluegrass bands I would rather encounter than The Grascals.

Before Breakfast is as strong an album as the group has released. From the catchy opener “Sleepin’ With the Reaper,” a fine Becky Buller-Grant Williams addition to the bluegrass canon of fidelity, through to the closing sing-a-long rambunctiousness of “Clear Corn Liquor” The Grascals present a well-rounded collection of bluegrass excellence.

John Bryan has been an outstanding addition to the group. His vocals on not only the lead track, but additional and quite diverse songs including the excellent “Delia” (coming from Jon Weisberger, Charlie Chamberlain, and Charles R. Humphrey III) and “I’ve Been Redeemed” are uniformly impressive.

One of three remaining original members of the group, Terry Eldredge offers up his always appreciated, earthy approach to tender songs. “Demons” faces down the temptations we all face, while “He Took Your Place” is a familiar song of faith worthy of modern interpretation.  “Beer Tree” and “Clear Corn Liquor” (from Tim Stafford and Bobby Starnes) are less weighty, but no less worthy.

Bassist Terry Smith takes the lead position on a single song, “Lonesome,” (co-written with sibling Billy) and one wishes the album had another couple samples of his country-inspired approach to bluegrass singing (without subtracting anything—running 38 minutes, five or six more minutes featuring Smith would have comfortably stretched Before Breakfast.)

I’ve listened the this album fifteen or twenty times this month, and each time I notice another little fill or roll from Kristin Scott Benson. While her 5-string sounds are all over the album, there are places—as on “Beer Tree” and “Delia”—where her contribution is so subtle you almost miss it; once recognized, it is impossible to again miss and one realizes the importance of every single element within the greater expanse of this bluegrass combo—nothing is included out of habit or obligation, each note serves a purpose.

Danny Roberts, with Eldredge and Smith forming the august original core of the group, is like Benson a proverbial master of his instrument if under-recognized, and his mandolin playing is well-featured, never more so on his instrumental romp (co-written with fiddler Adam Haynes) “Lynchburg Chicken Run.” Roberts and Haynes work together well as on “He Took Your Place” and on Kelsi Harrigill’s (Flatt Lonesome) “There Is You” Haynes adds depth to a rather sentimental set of lyrics.

“Pathway of Teardrops” is a well-established bluegrass harmony showcase going back to The Osborne Brothers, and The Grascals’ interpretation goes toe-to-toe with that venerable classic rendition: not better, but equally their own. No matter where The Grascals go, they never stray too far from the foundation.

Before Breakfast, after lunch, and during supper—there is no bad time for The Grascals. Now, would someone bring them to Alberta—it has been a dozen too many years since I’ve seen the group live!

 

 

 

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Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver- Life Is A Story review   Leave a comment

LifeIsaStory

Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver Life Is A Story Mountain Home Music Company

Let’s be honest up front, and I trust that is why you visit Fervor Coulee—Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver were one of the first bluegrass bands I experienced (on album) and I have spent many hours enjoying their music. When I first encountered them live in 2001, I was rocked. While the names and voices may change, the quality is always apparent, and if I think the peak of the group was more than a decade ago when Jamie Dailey, Barry Scott, Terry Baucom, and Jesse Stockman recorded Dig A Little Deeper with Doyle, I can also allow that others have a different view.

Here is the honest part—I find much of the music that DLQ has recorded since to be—at turns—trite, heavy-handed, or sanctimonious. At best each album, no matter the year, had two or three songs that just rubbed me the wrong way.

With that out of the way, there is a lot to appreciate about Life Is A Story. As strong an album as the previous In Session was, Life Is A Story is a touch more impressive. With the band lineup solidified—at least for now—with Josh Swift (resophonic, lead guitar, and percussion,) Joe Dean (banjo and guitar,) Dustin Pyrtle (vocals and guitar,) Eli Johnston (vocals and bass,) Stephen Burwell (fiddle,) and Lawson (vocals, mandolin and mandola)—a true band sound emerges. I am not privy to how the album was recorded, but is certainly has a feel of a group working together to create a collection of songs with a consistent feel.

There are several highlights, and these will vary between listeners depending on tastes. “What Am I Living For” is a strong vocal showcase, featuring rich harmonies and a strong lead; unfortunately I don’t know if it is Pyrtle or Johnston, but it sounds real fine, and is perhaps the album’s strongest performance. The O’Kanes’ “Bluegrass Blues” has been a song deserving of a high profile recording for decades, and it given its due here. “Guitar Case” is a nice Donna Ulisse-Marc Rossi narrative, and the treatment it is given here is both lonely and hopeful; this song may be familiar from Nu-Blu’s recording of a few years back.

Less successful are the album’s two lead tracks. “Kids These Days” recalls a time that may (or may not) have existed forty or fifty years ago, but certainly not the “twenty years ago” it claims, and whether the elements held up as exemplary are indeed entirely positive will depend on personal beliefs; for me, the song falls flat.  “Little Girl,” John Michael Montgomery final #1,  is a lot too judgmental and contrived for this listener.

While the lyrical elements of “Life of a Hard Workin’ Man” and “I See a Heartbreak Comin’,” two of the band-written songs, are very familiar within the bluegrass world, the performances here are spot-on and represent this edition of DLQ at their finest. Lawson sounds a bit thin on “Cry Across Kansas,” but this road-weariness complements the song and it may be my favourite song on the album. “Drivin’ It Home” does exactly that, closing the album on lively notes.

Without question, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver remain one of bluegrass music’s most highly considered outfits. Nominated this year as both Entertainer of the Year and Vocal Group of the Year, and with Josh Swift getting a nod as Reso Player of the Year, the IBMA continues to acknowledge their expertise. With Life Is A Story the group continues to produce the type of music that has made DLQ one of the most successful bluegrass bands in history; that not every song or production decision appeals to me doesn’t discount the quality of their performances. Maybe for fans only, but that is a fairly sizeable contingent!

Chris Jones & the Night Drivers- Made to Move review   1 comment

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Chris Jones & the Night Drivers Made to Move Mountain Home Music Company

It is ridiculous that we expect groups and artists to constantly out-do themselves from one album to the next. Once a pinnacle is reached, perhaps we should be pleased when a group simply maintains their standards.

Therefore, I’m not going to suggest Made to Move is better than Chris Jones & the Night Drivers’ previous recording, the hit-laden collection Run Away Tonight. Indeed, it may not be. No, that future classic was a mighty high bar, but if Made to Move doesn’t exceed it, it certainly matches that recording as a set of original bluegrass that is superior to the majority encountered.

The album kicks off with a healthy Chuck Berry vibe (“All the Ways I’m Gone,”) that complements Jones’ confident low-nsome vocal canter. Before the song is out, we’ve heard memorable, stellar picking from not only Jones, but mandolinist Mark Stoffel and co-producer Dobroist Tim Surrett.

And things just continue to get better with each passing song.

Newest Night Driver Gina Glowes’ vocal harmony contributions are noticed and appreciated, giving a new depth to the group’s well-established sound. Her 5-string chops are obvious throughout, but especially on more reflective pieces such as the already chart-topping “I’m A Wanderer” and “Living Without.” “Last Frost” is the album’s banjo instrumental, and it is a fully-developed musical landscape that the imaginative can read like a story. On this tune, bassist Jon Weisberger’s tone is notable.

Weisberger, who co-wrote half the songs on the album, is a formidable bass presence. He doesn’t impede with his presence, of course, but no one in bluegrass seems to be able to do exactly what he does—perhaps it is just a testament to the way the group records, but his bass rhythms are never experienced as an apparent afterthought.

With his bold, baritone voice, Jones is easy to listen to and his mild-mannered approach to a song allows him to connect with listeners in a way some vocalists never master. A story song such as “The Old Bell” pulls one into its history within seconds, while the ‘coming home’ “Range Road 53” appeals in a similar manner if with increased tempo. “Silent Goodbye” may remind listeners of a previous Jones-Weisberger co-write, “Final Farewell.”

Stoffel is known as a tasteful accompanist, and his contributions to songs including “Rainbows Fell” will have some listeners leaning in toward the speakers. His mando-laden “What the Heck?!” closes the set, and is a fitting way to wrap-up the album, one that is as fresh and sparkling as its coda.

Clowes’ approach to “Dark Hollow” is readily apparent and perhaps even innovative, but it is Stoffel’s notes that I gravitate toward. The Night Drivers present an interesting arrangement of the old warhorse, one that obviously sparked the band’s interest as they worked it up together. By modulating the tempo mid-song, the Night Drivers encourages one to re-engage with the oft-heard standard.

Finally, I know Jones has recorded albums without a Tom T. Hall song, but not often. Made to Move‘s offering is a gentle interpretation of the Johnny Rodriguez co-write “You Always Come Back (To Hurting Me,)” a #1 from 1973.

Chris Jones & the Night Drivers are undoubtedly one of bluegrass music’s strongest instrumental bands. Each of the musicians is a master of their craft, and together they produce a style of bluegrass that is most likely unique. With Jones as their lead singer, they are blessed with one of the strongest, most recognizable vocal stylists the music offers. Will 2017 finally be the year that the band are recognized by the International Bluegrass Music Association when it comes time to complete ballots? One hopes so, because they truly have earned it.

Made to Move is another top-notch album from Chris Jones & the Night Drivers.

Darin & Brooke Aldridge- Faster and Farther review   Leave a comment

dbacover-300x263My review of the sixth album of new material from Darin and Brooke Aldridge has been posted to Country Standard Review. They have become one of bluegrass music’s most reliable acts.

http://www.countrystandardtime.com/d/cdreview.asp?xid=6272 will get you there.

Donald

 

Posted 2017 February 17 by Donald Teplyske in Uncategorized

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Balsam Range- Hillbilly Voodoo review   Leave a comment

balsam-rangeOver the past decade, Balsam Range has become one of the most played and rewarded bluegrass bands. I’ve written about them many times, and have reviewed their latest album over at Lonesome Road Review.

My review of Five is linked through here.

I reviewed their album with John Driskell Hopkins here.

My review of Papertown is here.

Trains I Missed was reviewed here.

Balsam Range- Trains I Missed review   Leave a comment

My first review of 2011- for a 2010 release- has been posted over at Lonesome Road Review. Check it out if you’re interested. I really like the slogan the band uses at their website: “Where the music lives, breathes, and grows!” Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald

Balsam Range
Trains I Missed
Mountain Home Music Company
4 stars (out of 5)

By Donald Teplyske

Since their inception four years ago, Balsam Range has been a consistently impressive force within the bluegrass recording community. Their well-crafted third album furthers their effort toward becoming one of the premier bluegrass acts.

As on previous releases, Trains I Missed finds Balsam Range presenting a range of contemporary bluegrass sounds, music based firmly in the sounds of Bill Monroe (who they covered five times on their debut recording Marching Home) while embracing seemingly more progressive but equally appealing influences such as Blue Highway.

Hailing from the area of North Carolina where the Smokies meet the Blue Ridge, Balsam Range has featured a stable five-man lineup since their recording debut. Tim Surrett plays acoustic bass while adding resophonic guitar to select tracks. Buddy Melton is the fiddler with Darren Nicholson featured on mandolin. Caleb Smith handles guitar with the band’s most experienced musician, Marc Pruett, providing exceptional five-string contributions.

Everyone excepting Pruett sings lead and harmony vocals with Smith singing lead most frequently. The only guest musician invited to the proceedings is pianist Jeff Collins who contributes to “Meanwhile.”

Several tunes from this album have received considerable airplay. The title track, written by Walt Wilkins, Gilles Goddard, and Nicole Witt, may be most familiar and is a mid-tempo number that reflects on choices made, their impact on where one ends up, and the resulting blessings.

“Callin’ Caroline” has also proven to be a popular track; an up-tempo song previously recorded and co-written by Darryl Worley, it is a rather insubstantial song of the “I can’t wait to get off this highway and back to her” variety.

More significant is the inspirational “The Touch,” an accounting of the possibilities that arise reaching for the Savior’s hand. “Hard Price to Pay” and “On the Run” are lively numbers that maintain interest while exploring well-trodden bluegrass territory.

The Carter Family’s “East Virginia Blues” is dusted off and given a spirited reading. Randall Hylton’s “Gonna Be Movin’” featured on The Darrell Webb Band’s album earlier this year, is also performed and allows that band to further explore their vocal harmony dexterity.

Balsam Ridge is a banjo and fiddle-driven bluegrass band. Their vocal harmonies are superior to that which one would expect from a ‘hometown’ group, and their instrumental interplay is exceedingly engaging.

Further distinguishing themselves from the pack, Balsam Range’s approach to lead vocals is varied: Melton and Smith trade the lead position on select songs and all four vocalists are fully capable of carrying a song to fruition.

Balsam Ridge doesn’t exactly push boundaries, but they inject enough vibrant warmth into their style of bluegrass that they appear fresh and appealing. Trains I Missed is a more than satisfying bluegrass album.