Archive for the ‘Rebel Records’ Tag

High Fidelity- Hills and Home review   Leave a comment

Hills and Home

High Fidelity Hills and Home Rebel Records

Every decade or so, Rebel Records signs a performer with limited national presence and assists them in ascending the bluegrass ladder: Steep Canyon Rangers; Chris Jones; Lonesome River Band; Lost & Found; Cliff Waldron…

This time out, that band is High Fidelity.

High Fidelity’s second album, Hills and Home (named for the John Duffey composition originally recorded by the Country Gentlemen for Starday in 1959, and included here) serves as an appealing and versatile introduction to this rather youthful quintet’s energetic, foundationally strong, and vocal-focused representation of contemporary bluegrass.  Hills and Home affirms the promise of their sparking, self-titled debut of 2016.

Built around the complementary vocal duo of Corrina Rose Logston Stephens (fiddle) and Jeremy Stephens (guitar and banjo), High Fidelity also features Kurt Stephenson (banjo and guitar), Daniel Amick (mandolin and guitar), and Vickie Vaughn (URB), who some will recall from her self-named group and EP. The group most obviously presents bluegrass that captures the old-time sounds of bluegrass influenced by Reno & Smiley, with shades of the Louvins in some of their arrangement choices and production approaches. Their focus is capturing a vintage sound is apparent throughout the album’s fourteen songs, perhaps never so strongly as on “Gotta Get You Near Me Blues,” a Buddy Holly song by way of Bob Montgomery, which shines with a Louvin aesthetic.

“I’ve Changed My Mind” is a master course in vocal harmony with the Stephens spouses seamlessly exchanging leads on the chorus. That the group fully accepts the message of this redemption song is apparent not only in their masterful delivery, but in the fact that half the songs contain messages of faith. “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” is featured with a rarely encountered verse included.

High Fidelity’s duo and trio singing is pleasingly presented on songs including “I Will Always Be Waiting For You,” “The Leaf of Love,” and the very strong “My Saviour’s Train.” Jeremy Stephens has a strong, confident voice, and Corrina Rose is a perfect foil with a sharpness in her delivery that is atypical and so terribly welcome. She doesn’t have a prototypical ‘pretty’ (and consequently, bland) bluegrass voice; rather, she could be the high harmony singer on a ‘fifties radio show recording, cutting through the gloom and distance from a far-away station. As a result, her voice is memorable and even beautiful.

High Fidelity’s versatility is revealed in their approach to these (mostly) seldom encountered songs. Charlie Monroe’s 60’s song “My Mother’s White Rose” is given an ‘old-school’ performance that evokes images of a (seemingly) less complicated time. Jim & Jesse’s “I Will Always Be Waiting For You” receives similar treatment, while “Maple On The Hill” is given a bit of juice to get it over the rise. “Grey Eagle” not only gives Logston Stephens a chance to cut loose, the entire group digs in for an elaborate breakdown of distinction.

Hills and Home is an exciting bluegrass release from a group that creates the kind of bluegrass too seldom heard today. Like the Johnson Mountain Boys and Longview before them, High Fidelity is bringing bluegrass music’s rich history forward to today’s audience.

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Peter Rowan- Carter Stanley’s Eyes review   2 comments

Rowan

Peter Rowan Carter Stanley’s Eyes Rebel Records

Carter Stanley’s Eyes is an acute reminder of that, when performed with talent, inspiration, and respect, bluegrass is a very powerful thing.

Peter Rowan has been a bluegrass institution for more than thirty years, with a pedigree stretching back to the mid-1960s as a member of the Blue Grass Boys. Rowan—the target of the infamous Bill Monroe quote, “Don’t go too far out on that limb, there’s enough flowers out there already”—has frequently ventured well-outside the bluegrass realm, almost always with satisfying results.

With Carter Stanley’s Eyes, Rowan returns to the formidable truck of the bluegrass tree with an album-long tribute to the music and its originators, especially Carter and Ralph Stanley. Rowan’s voice has always percolated richness infused with eternal qualities, and across the 14 songs and nearly fifty minutes of this release, everything we have come to expect from ‘bluegrass’ Peter Rowan are prominently displayed.

A pulsating and mandolin-rich rendition of “Drumbeats Along the Watchtower” (more familiarly entitled “Wild Geese Cry Again”) opens the recording, and it is an excellent start. Rowan shows he is ready to do the heaviest lifting on this his fortieth-or-so non-live album. The song is also indication of how closely tied this album will be to the Stanley tradition. “The Light In Carter Stanley’s Eyes” captures a formative moment in Rowan’s early bluegrass career, a recitation of self-deprecation and mentor validation

A number of songs made essential via the Stanley Brothers are incorporated, including “The Hills of Roane County,” “A Vision of Mother,” “Let Me Love You One More Time,” and “Too Late To Cry.” A couple numbers have a spiritual theme including, freshened with stellar recording methods and an inspired arrangement, “A Crown He Wore,” also famously recorded by the Stanleys. “A Tiny Broken Heart”— initially made popular by the Louvin Brothers, and as a bluegrass staple  via Hazel & Alice, The Bluegrass Cardinals, and Dan Tyminski, among others—is a bit drippy for my tastes, but it has served its purpose for dozens of years and isn’t out of place among this set of now traditional pieces.

Within “Can’t You Hear Me Calling,” a signature element of the Monroe  Doctrine, echoes of the Master are readily apparent without ever once sounding forced or artificial: Rowan has an ability to evoke Monroe while avoiding mimicry.

These performances comfortably complement the most engaging released by Rowan, in no small part due to the quality of the musicians and vocalists with which he has surrounded himself.  [The only negative I can find with this entire package is that individual credits are not provided.] Connections to the legends abound, with Blaine Sprouse, who played with Monroe, on fiddle, Jack Lawrence (Doc Watson) is the credited lead guitarist, and Don Rigsby, who was closely associated with Ralph Stanley, plays mandolin. Rowan’s touring group- Patrick Sauber (banjo), Chris Henry (mandolin), and Paul Knight (bass)-are given equal billing. Produced by Rowan, and co-produced with Tim O’Brien (both of whom also contribute guitar), the album’s sound, production, and aural atmosphere are pristine.

After more than fifty years as a bluegrass professional, the light shines in Peter Rowan’s eyes: that he loves bluegrass music is without doubt. Neither is his ability to create a masterful album of bluegrass classics.

 

Larry Sparks- Lonesome & Blue: More Favorites review   Leave a comment

We don’t get too many releases from what was once the premier bluegrass music label these days. I don’t know the reasons, but I do wish it twernt true: maybe it isn’t, just my perception.

I was pleased to receive a review download of Rebel Records’ new Larry Sparks compilation, Lonesome & Blue: More Favorites. The review is posted over at Lonesome Road Review; I hope you will consider giving it a read.

Sparks B and L

Big Country Bluegrass- Let Them Know I’m From Virginia review   Leave a comment

My review of the new album from Big County Bluegrass, available from Rebel Records, has been posted to the Lonesome Road Review.

Let Them Know I’m From Virginia is a most enjoyable bluegrass album. As I state in the review, nothing fancy (and as I didn’t mention in the review, nothing groundbreaking that moves the music forward) just real strong ‘grass!

BCB

I’ve reviewed previous albums from the band HERE and THERE.

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

Big Country Bluegrass- Country Livin’ review   1 comment

Country_Livin_70182257_stdOne of the most consistently listenable bluegrass bands working the circuit, Virginia’s Big Country Bluegrass recently released their third Rebel Records album. They’ve been around for a long time, and in my opinion just keep getting better. I like what they bring. Read my review at Fervor Coulee Bluegrass.

Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald

Review: Dolly Parton, Town Mountain, Lewis & Kallick, Ralph Stanley   Leave a comment

A few reviews have been posted over at the Lonesome Road Review.

untitledLaurie Lewis & Kathy Kallick’s tribute to Vern Williams and Ray Park is a stunning bluegrass collection.

I was asked to submit a version of my Ralph Stanley & Ralph Stanley II duets album of earlier this year.

Rising bluegrass band Town Mountain has released a ‘stop-gap’ live set that is brief, but still pretty enjoyable.

Finally, I was assigned Dolly Parton’s latest. Despite having enjoyed her music for decades, I wasn’t impressed this time out.

Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald