Archive for the ‘Rebel Records’ Tag
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
One 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
Country Standard Time asked me to review two recent releases for them.
Flatt Lonesome’s second album, Too– a terrific improvement over their first and in my opinion uneven album- is one that seems to finding some traction in the bluegrass world. The review is posted HERE.
A couple weeks ago I wrote quite extensively about Larry Sparks’ new release, a fifty year anniversary celebration entitled Lonesome And Then Some. I’ve condensed that review for CST here.
As always, thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
Larry Sparks Lonesome and Then Some: A Classic 50th Celebration Rebel Records
Over fifty years as a bluegrass professional, Larry Sparks has honed a full-bodied, soulful approach to singing bluegrass. He has a wonderful right hand, maintaining unbreakable rhythm while contributing leads that lend a bluesy country resonance to his songs. With calm assurance that has been mistaken for standoffishness, Sparks is a gentlemanly ambassador for bluegrass.
As was the case a decade ago with 40, on this new set Sparks has teamed with some of the most talented musicians and singers in bluegrass to celebrate his 50th year in the music. As special as that collection was- and it was justifiably awarded the IBMA’s Album of the Year in 2005- this set is even more satisfying.
More so than on the previous offering, Sparks and his band form the instrumental core of Lonesome and Then Some. This time out, the guests are less centres of attention, allowing the focus to remain more obviously on Sparks. There appears to have been less emphasis this time on getting a bunch of names to work with Sparks than there was on simply constructing a stunning bluegrass album.
The Lonesome Ramblers appear throughout Lonesome and Then Some. Tyler Mullins handles the banjo duties and Larry D. Sparks takes care of the bass. Jackie Kincaid’s tenor is recognizable on most songs. Long-time Sparks’ compatriot David Harvey is the featured mandolin player, with Ron Stewart fiddling. This consistency provides the album with favorable cohesiveness.
As Sparks has done in the past, “In Those Days” looks back on a time when things were seemingly better. While the song, written by Connie Leigh, takes a characteristically rose-colored view of the past, there is no arguing with the power of Sparks’ interpretation. Similar fire is heard within “We Prayed,” a Sandy Shortridge song in which tension builds in the face of a storm and “Journey to the Light,” a song of the coalmining life from the same writer.
Impressive is the album’s feature track, “Bitterweeds.” Stewart lays the foundation for this expansive narrative (from Barbara Wilkinson), one that should become a Sparks standard; “I guess she always knew” that her love would never return, but she only left the “dusty window” when she was carried from the home. Modulating his vocal approach to utilize precise lyrical imagery, Sparks creates a compelling and mournful character study.
Curly Seckler sings tenor to Sparks’ lead on a pair of songs, both of which I believe they have sung a few times, if not together. “Dim Lights, Thick Smoke” has the added bonus of Bobby Osborne on mandolin, while “We’re Going To Sing, Sing, Sing” features Jesse McReynolds on mando. Seckler’s voice adds just the right depth to the choruses of these songs.
Osborne appears on a second song, also singing this time on “Letter to My Darling.” This classic sound- Sparks singing lead and baritone on the chorus, Osborne with a clear tenor, a tight five-instrument arrangement featuring a real nice break from the mandolin master- makes this track an immediate favourite.
Lonesome and Then Some is a decidedly masculine affair. Alison Krauss and Judy Marshall bring some softness to “Going Up Home to Live in Green Pastures.” Both appeared on 40, and hearing them together here is nothing short of special.
Appropriately, Ralph Stanley lend his distinctive and continually dynamic voice to “Loving You Too Well,” a great Carter Stanley song. In bluegrass tradition, the dramatic pairing of two vocal legends doesn’t overshadow the crisp precision of the instrumentalists. Kincaid’s mandolin break is brief but notable, and Stewart steps up for a brief cameo, as does Mullins. While so expected to make it appear pedestrian, the performance of this arrangement is truly excellent in its execution.
Capping another in a line of terrific Larry Sparks albums- Almost Home, I Don’t Regret a Mile, The Last Suit You Wear– Lonesome and Then Some concludes with an archival recording from 1995. Joining the Blue Grass Boys at Bean Blossom, Sparks duets with Bill Monroe on “In the Pines.” The energetic spontaneity and obvious fan appeal of this performance overshadows any lack of precision that may exist.
Larry Sparks has long been one of the stars of bluegrass. He has earned his status as a legend of the music. Lonesome and Then Some: A Classic 50th Celebration may mark Sparks’ golden anniversary since joining the Clinch Mountain Boys, but it is just as unequivocally evidence that he isn’t going to be relinquishing his rightful place as a denizen of bluegrass’ artistic leadership anytime soon.
A mini-review of the duo’s recent album, as well as a thought or two about how ‘more’ bluegrass and bluegrass information may be causing us to overlook what really matters. Here’s the link that will get you to the article over at Country Standard Time. Slow down this summer, and listen to this wonderful little album.
As always, I thank you for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald
Originally published at Fervor Coulee Bluegrass, June, 2014:
87 years is a long time to live. To be a vital recording artist at that age is highly unusual, but that is what we find today when we consider Ralph Stanley.
Recorded last year- so more accurately 86 year old as a recording artist- “Side By Side” is a duet album recorded by Stanley and his son, Ralph Stanley II, and released this past February on Rebel Records. I purchased the album while on a spring break trip to Missouri, and it immediately went into regular rotation in the Fervor Coulee F-150.
It is the first time the two have stood, well, side by side in the studio as equals rather than as ‘boss’ and Clinch Mountain Boy. The selection of songs- four of which feature Ralph in strong, lead voice- are almost exclusively older and well-known: the album kicks off with Wild Bill Jones, goes Walking With You In My Dreams, asks Are You Waiting Just For Me, and concludes with I’ve Still Got 99.
The musicianship is classic sounding- fresh and relaxed with a professional sheen that doesn’t get in the way of the emotions of the music. Clinch Mountain Boys alumni John Rigsby (fiddle and mandolin), Randall Hibbitts (bass), and Steve Sparkman (banjo) are the core band, with Two doing double duty on lead and rhythm guitar. Dr. Ralph lays out clawhammer-style on a solitary track, the appealing Battle Ax.
Doubting the senior Stanley’s vocal capabilities? Don’t. Instead, give Don’t Weep for Me, or appreciate his excellent tenor contributions to any number of these songs including Don’t Step Over An Old Love, Nobody Answered Me, or Carolina Mountain Home.
Two has become a fine singer in his own right, one of my favorites. If you haven’t heard him before, also consider his album of a couple years back “Born To Be A Drifter.” White & Pink Flowers is a sentimental weeper, while Dirty Black Coal is more my style. Start to finish, “Side By Side” is a superior album of bluegrass.
Perusing these song titles, it is readily apparent what Two and co-producer Rigsby had in mind- a celebration of the Stanley mountain music legacy. And they have pulled such off in a significant way.
My question is, Has anyone noticed?
Googling around a bit this week, I found only a handful of full reviews of this album. I may have missed them, but I don’t recall seeing these songs on recent airplay charts. The various bluegrass discussion boards have either ignored the album entirely, or acknowledged it only in passing. There was an initial spurt of one-sheet rewrites back in February, and at least one insightful interview with Two published, but it certainly hasn’t been highlighted to any other significant degree on the major bluegrass websites. I know some in my acquaintance weren’t even aware the album was even released-admittedly, their bad.
All of which is a shame. “Side By Side,” from where I’m sitting in central Alberta, is cause for celebration. We all know Ralph Stanley had planned on retiring this year, but with his continuing good health delaying that decision one of the last true ‘first generation’ bluegrass singers continues to make appearances. And his latest album is as good as anything- and certainly superior to some- he has recorded in the past twenty years.
I wonder if we are losing sight of what really matters when it comes to bluegrass. Information about the musicians is available to us like never before- if we don’t get a Tweet about someone’s daughter’s graduation, we’re reading another birth announcement. We get updates weekly about fiddle players we’ve never heard of either leaving or joining bands we haven’t encountered. We can find the latest song by the ‘next big thing’ in seconds, but how often do we actually listen?
We hear more, read more, know more than ever before. But, have we forgot to listen? To contemplate and understand?
These are mighty great days to be a fan of bluegrass music. In our haste to glean a little of everything, let’s not ignore those who got us here.
I would suggest that “Side By Side” should be added to everyone’s summer listening list.
The best thing I’ve heard all week! An excellent bluegrass album- fluid and lively, without a hint of self-satisfaction. My review of this release of the highest quality is posted at the Lonesome Road Review.
Junior and Joe know bluegrass. You’ll want to purchase this recent Rebel Records release. I just found out I previously wrote about this album back in October HERE, so scroll down to see what I thought on that day. Don’t remember writing that at all!
Thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee.
Donald @FervorCoulee on Twitter
Joe Mullins & Junior Sisk
Hall of Fame Bluegrass!
5 stars (out of 5)
By Donald Teplyske
The common exclamation is bound to repeatedly come to mind while listening to this destined-to-be-classic outing honoring (select) pioneers of this music called bluegrass.
Junior Sisk is the reigning Male Vocalist of the Year according to the professionals within the International Bluegrass Music Association, but he could have justifiably received the award at any point during the past decade. Joe Mullins is a bluegrass industry all his own: radio station owner, vocalist, bandleader, banjo player. As they both record for Rebel, it makes perfect sense that they should come together to record a baker’s dozen certified bluegrass classics, paying tribute to their industry’s forebears who have made their way into the IBMA’s Hall of Fame.
This set would have IBMA 2014 Recorded Event of the Year written all over it if entire album projects were still eligible for the recognition. As it stands, with thirteen superior cuts of bluegrass splitting potential votes, such is not assured but certainly this 38-minute collection is worthy of such.
Each and every track on this album has something about it that could make a listener declare with no shortage of fervor, “That’s the best thing I’ve heard this week!”
“Wild Mountain Honey,” made famous by the Osborne Brothers & Red Allen and the album’s lead track, has rightfully received a great deal of attention from radio programmers: the song is a sparkling example of up-tempo bluegrass. Jason Carter’s contribution to this song is just the first of several examples of why he has been among the most significant fiddlers of the past two decades.
On Doc Watson’s (okay, James Jett’s) “Greenville Trestle High” it is the pairing of Sisk and Mullins’ voices, complemented by either Sisk’s or Dudley Connell’s lead guitar—the credits do not distinguish between the two, not that it matters a lick when it comes to listening. Further vocal showcases are provided within “Single Girl, Married Girl” and Don Reno’s “I’m Sorry Happy.”
While paying tribute to Jimmy Martin and J.D. Crowe by recording the pitiful “I’ll Drink No More Wine,” it is Jesse Brock’s mandolin that emerges alongside the foundation created by Mullins’ 5-string, and Mullins ensures that “No Blind Ones There” is made all the more powerful with the punctuation he provides. Rob Ickes’ Dobro naturally comes to the fore on “No Doubt About It.”
Marshall Wilborn handles the bass in his customarily enviable fashion. I wouldn’t have minded a bit had he contributed some harmony singing.
While Sisk and Mullins—who also co-produced this superior recording—have touched on many of the most prominent members of the IBMA’s Hall of Fame, there remains many to choose from when it comes time to revisit this noble concept within the anticipated Volume 2.