Archive for the ‘The Boxcars’ Tag

Bluegrass Albums of 2016   Leave a comment

Here is my list of Favourite Bluegrass Albums of 2016. Of course, your kilometreage will vary: I once received a perplexing, cranky email from the father of a fairly prominent bluegrasser whose album I didn’t include on such a list several years ago. For those such inclined, I repeat—these are my favourite bluegrass albums of the year. Not the best, ’cause that is silly. And all I can base it on is those albums I’ve heard, and maybe I somehow missed your son’s album…talk to his publicist.

  1. untitledLaurie Lewis & the Right Hands- The Hazel & Alice Sessions (Spruce and Maple) Laurie Lewis places Hazel Dickens with the bluegrass vocal big-three: Bill Monroe, Carter Stanley, and Lester Flatt. Alice Gerrard is a fearsome master of vocal folk, old-time, and bluegrass. The Hazel and Alice Sessions is not only a worthy tribute to a key bluegrass partnership, but an entertaining and formable collection of music. For me, undoubtedly the bluegrass album of the year. Nominated for a Grammy this time out, I could listen to this one every day. Also, if taken together with the rest of the roots and Americana world, my favourite album of the year.

2. 307217534cdbb2ec36864489b286660fSister Sadie- Sister Sadie (Pinecastle) It remains rare for an all-female outfit featuring well-established personalities to come together to perform and record. Sister Sadie is one hell of a band! Presenting Dale Ann Bradley, Tina Adair and Gena Britt with Deanie Richardson and Beth Lawrence, Sister Sadie not only has individual name recognition, but an appealing, unified bluegrass approach. Dedicating the album to bluegrass innovator Lynn Morris, Sister Sadie has paid homage to the power of their gender’s role in bluegrass and country music.

3. the-earls-of-leicester-rattle-and-roar-album-coverThe Earls of Leicester- Rattle & Roar (Rounder Records) Like the Bluegrass Album Band did three decades ago, The  Earls of Leicester are more than a bluegrass supergroup. They deftly remind the bluegrass community of what this music is about: no ‘nod’ to the roots of the music, this is a full-blown tribute to the sturdy trunk that has supported the many branches of bluegrass for 70 years. While one may not ‘hear’ that the album was largely cut live with the musicians playing simultaneously within the same room, you can certainly ‘feel’ the intimacy of the experience. Everything is precise and note-perfect of course, but listening to “Why Did You Wonder?” one can envision Jerry Douglas nodding to Paul Warren to take a fiddle break after a chorus, Shawn Camp encouraging Charlie Cushman to step-up to deliver a memorable fill, and Jeff White grinning to Barry Bales as the song is brought home. With great regard for the tradition and even greater understanding of the precision required to make this music appear effortless—and the ability to pull it off—Rattle & Roar is another outstanding bluegrass recording from The Earls of Leicester.

4. TheMoreILearnBryanSuttonBryan Sutton- The More I Learn (Sugar Hill Records) Hands down, Bryan Sutton is the preeminent contemporary bluegrass guitar player. With clarity, precision, and enthusiasm born of ingenuity and good-taste, he is the ‘go-to’ player within both the bluegrass and Nashville-country studio recording worlds. All the while, Sutton has maintained a recording presence. While early recordings focused primarily (although not exclusively) on impressive interpretations of familiar instrumentals and fiddle tunes, Sutton has pushed himself on latter albums to develop his songwriting while also presenting himself as a singer. This progression continues with The More I Learn, with seven originals and co-writes and nine songs featuring Sutton in the lead position. A very satisfying recording that will appeal to those who have come to appreciate Sutton’s tasteful approach to bluegrass and acoustic music.

5. balsam-rangeBalsam Range- Mountain Voodoo (Mountain Home) Balsam Range is a band that encapsulates all that modern bluegrass represents. So consistently impressive that we no longer expect their albums to be ‘better than their last,’ in less than a decade Balsam Range has hit the plateau of excellence few groups achieve. Like The Del McCoury Band, Blue Highway, and Alison Krauss & Union Station before them, a new release from Balsam Range is measured against their individual legacy. Mountain Voodoo lacks nothing.

6. unnamedJames Reams & the Barnstormers- Rhyme & Season (Mountain Redbird) I’ve never hidden the fact that James Reams is one of my favourite people in bluegrass. He gets to the heart of the music each and every time, whether interpreting an under-heard classic of the genre, reinventing a country song, or performing one of his many excellent original numbers. Now based in Arizona, the longtime Brooklyn bluegrass mainstay returned this spring with a wonderful new album, Rhyme & Season. Rhyme & Season is most deliberately a concept album, a rarity in bluegrass circles. It includes songs from Mike Stinson (“Angel of the Evening,” Marty Stuart (“Rough Around the Edges,”) and Lawrence Shoberg (“Born to Roll”) and from the catalogs of Porter Wagoner (“$100 Funeral”) and Charley Pride (“Special,”) songs that capture the experiences of life’s outliers, the lost and often invisible.

7. rightbesideyou_280Jeff White- Right Beside You (Jeff White Bluegrass Records) Right Beside You is simply a terrific bluegrass album, one provided shades of influence from the Americana tree. As a result of the familiarity of the material, Right Beside You sounds classic. Because of the quality of performance, it is.

8. blue_highway_original_traditional_cover_rgbBlue Highway- Original Traditional (Rounder Records) Their eleventh album and first since Rob Ickes departed, continues Blue Highway’s recent blueprint: original music written or co-written by band members along with a single traditional song. The album’s title alludes to the group’s tendency to bridge the generations of bluegrass through recognition and reverence for the traditions of the music while ensuring a contemporary, original perspective is always present. With three formidable lead vocalists and key songwriters—Tim Stafford, Shawn Lane, and Wayne Taylor— along with Jason Burleson’s alternately aggressive and pensive, propulsive and sympathetic banjo presence (his tune “Alexander’s Run” is a highlight of the recording) and an instrumental lineup as strong as has ever been staged, Blue Highway is one of the top bands in the business. And this is an excellent bluegrass album.

9. paisleyDanny Paisley & Southern Grass- Weary River (Patuxent Music) Weary River was released in late 2015, too late to be considered for most year-end lists including my own, but the album received its due in 2016. For those who continue to appreciate bluegrass unadorned by passing fancy, this album has much to offer.

10. 1455228838118Del McCoury Band- Del and Woody (McCoury Music) As produced previous sets from Billy Bragg & Wilco, Jay Farrar, et al, and The Klezmatics, lyrics stored within the Woody Guthrie Archives were turned over to McCoury to be repurposed. This rootsy set, fully bluegrass in sound and intent, is the result and the first thing one may notice is how much it sounds like a typical Del McCoury Band album: if unaware of its genesis, one wouldn’t be surprised by anything included here. The musicianship is naturally first-class. McCoury has crafted these 12 songs within the well-established family oeuvre, balancing up tempo, but still substantial numbers and reflective, even maudlin songs. Del and Woody should satisfy those searching for fresh takes on Guthrie lyrics as well as the legion that devours music of The Del McCoury Band.

11. Sam Bush- Storyman (Sugar Hill Records) Sam Bush, it can be argued, is the most significant mandolin player of the last fifty years. Bowling Green, Kentucky’s favoured son has long been the bellwether of all things acoustic and ‘grassy. Storyman comes almost seven years after the exceptional Circles Around Me, an album that signified a high-point in Bush’s considerable solo output. As strong as that album was (it made my Top Ten for 2009 and, in hindsight, it would now be certain of a Top 5 berth) Storyman is an even more complete encapsulation of Bush’s approach to acoustic, bluegrass shaded Americana.

12. Special Consensus- Long I Ride (Compass Records) For more than forty years, Greg Cahill has been making bluegrass music as leader of the Special Consensus. Never in that time, as far as I’m aware, has he experienced the type of success as seen in the past few years since signing on with Compass Records and Alison Brown, who also produces this record. They are a stellar bluegrass group, one of the finest in the business. Long I Ride is further evidence of this true life fact.

13. The Grascals- …and then there’s this (Mountain Home) One of bluegrass music’s strongest and most engaging performing groups, The Grascals have consistently freshened traditional sounds with modern, progressive elements. From start to finish, in this case Bill Monroe’s plaintive “Highway of Sorrow,” this album maintains the best parts of The Grascals’ country-tempered style of bluegrass, with lots of banjo from Kristin Scott Benson: The Grascals are back at the top of their game with …and then there’s this.

14. Town Mountain- Southern Crescent (LoHi Records) Southern Crescent isn’t so much a departure from previous albums, especially 2012’s excellent Leave the Bottle, as it is an intense continuation of their southern influences and hard-scrabble bluegrass sound. As raucous as this approach is, there is a place within the (sometimes) staid and constrained bluegrass community for exactly this type of music. It isn’t trying to be country, it sure isn’t leaning toward easy listening, NPR pap—it is bluegrass, just not the type favoured by Bill Monroe. For that matter, it isn’t of the flavour projected by Doyle Lawson, Rhonda Vincent, Lonesome River Band, or most of today’s mainstream headliners.

15. The Boxcars- Familiar With the Ground (Mountain Home) Continuing their own tradition of excellence, with the self-produced Familiar With the Ground, The Boxcars ably demonstrate that there is nothing better than a five-piece bluegrass band.

16. Kristin Scott Benson- Stringworks (Mountain Home) A beautifully balanced bluegrass album, one that alternates between instrumentals and songs. A very well-constructed and superbly executed bluegrass release, one that reveals the continued growth of one of bluegrass music’s most respected banjoists and personalities.

17. Audie Blaylock & Redline- The Road That Winds (Patuxent Music) Like his previous releases, The Road That Winds is a bluegrass album firmly down the dotted, middle line—it holds a steady course without drifting toward the edges, meeting anything in its way head on. Blaylock comes from the Jimmy Martin school, and his music will always be rooted in that tradition. However, over the course of their evolution, the younger members of the group—and obviously, Blaylock, too—have kept their sights on progressing with their music, ensuring they remain relevant as artists and entertainers. It’s straight-ahead bluegrass, but forward looking in execution.

18. Corrina Rose Logston- Bluegrass Fiddler (Patuxent Music) The title of the album is an acute summation. This is a bluegrass fiddle album, and a darned fine one. While I will sometimes drift-off (to use a polite term for ‘fall asleep’) listening to a fiddle-dominated recording, Bluegrass Fiddler kept me intrigued from start to finish. No doubt part of the reason was that Logston’s assembled band keeps things interesting, not just supporting her fiddling showcase, but sounding like a true band who has worked up a strong set of numbers.

19. Josh Williams- Modern Day Man (Rounder Records) A stunning bluegrass vocalist and guitarist, Williams’ contributions to Rhonda Vincent’s concert appearances are significant, never failing to impress. With the release of Modern Day Man, Williams delivers evidence that second chances must be earned through honesty, acceptance and no little bit of hard work.

20. Jeff Scroggins & Colorado- Ramblin Feels Good (Self-released) With flashes of greatness, Ramblin Feels Good is an above-average bluegrass release from a group that has quietly established a reputation as one of the more satisfying bands working the bluegrass circuit.

 

Fervor Coulee’s Favourite Bluegrass Albums of 2016   1 comment

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Over at Fervor Coulee Bluegrass (and eventually I will cross-post here) I have meticulously and expertly (!) compiled my list of my favourite bluegrass album of the year 2016. Please realize, these are my favourite bluegrass albums meaning, a) your list may be different, b) I don’t pretend to know what is best, and c) your definition of bluegrass may be different from mine. After much nasal grazing, these are the twenty I came up with, the albums I most enjoyed, most frequently listened to, and most highly regarded.

By a fairly large measure, Laurie Lewis & the Right Hands’ The Hazel and Alice Sessions topped my list. The complete article is posted HERE.

Enjoy.

The Boxcars- Familiar With the Ground review   1 comment

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The Boxcars Familiar With the Ground (Mountain Home)

Done correctly, bluegrass is the most beautiful music imaginable. While some long-running bands—Lonesome River Band, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, among others—find the need to tinker with the essential sound, others instinctively know what makes bluegrass bluegrass.

[Insert tired argument that the Osborne Brothers, Jimmy Martin, Alison Krauss, and others have brought drums into ‘grass. They did. They shouldn’t have. Want proof? Listen to the LRB’s latest, Bridging the Tradition: on what could have been a powerful recording, “Rose in Paradise,” “Showing My Age,” “Waiting on My Heart to Break,” “Real People,” and other fine songs are absolutely gutted by the inclusion of distracting, annoying percussion effects…and piano, for gawds sake!]

Fortunately, The Boxcars get bluegrass like few others. One of the music’s most consistent outfits, The Boxcars haven’t missed a beat welcoming the newest member of the band, youthful reso player John Hultman, into the fold. While bluegrass bands should always feature a fiddle player on their recordings, when the outfit is as strong as The Boxcars one makes exception.

With their fourth album released this week on Mountain Home and the title track already near the top of the weekly Bluegrass Today airplay chart, The Boxcars appear poised to remain in contention for IBMA awards when the 2016 nominees are announced. A little laid back, The Boxcars’ approach bridges the generations of bluegrass and its foundational traditions with a spirit of continual innovation and reinvention that isn’t permitted to lose sight of the roots.

With the exception of the departed John Bowman, The Boxcars founding core remains intact: Adam Steffey, eleven time (out of the past fourteen years) IBMA Mandolin Player of the Year; Ron Stewart, a two-time IBMA instrumentalist of the year—once each on banjo and fiddle; Keith Garrett, guitar; and Harold Nixon, bass. The addition of Dobro to the band’s sound isn’t jarring in any way, perhaps refreshing the group before staleness became apparent.

Coming in at a concise 30 minutes, Familiar With the Ground passes in a hurry. With the curious decision to open things with one of Townes Van Zandt’s least linear compositions “Lungs”—singer Keith Garrett’s previous group Blue Moon Rising cut the more obvious “Marie” several years back—The Boxcars demonstrate they are unlikely to settle into the comfort of the expected anytime soon: a song without chorus, “Lungs” works as a bluegrass number thanks to Stewart’s banjo rolls and Garrett’s heartfelt delivery.

While I could listen to Garrett’s smooth voice all day long, I have always been attracted to Steffey’s rough-hewn baritone. His songs—“Cold Hard Truth,” “Marshallville”—a tale of cold vengeance—and especially “Raised on Pain,” a Chris West song originating within Blue Moon Rising—are what truly sets The Boxcars apart from the pack. These songs ooze authenticity of emotion, capturing human experience at its most vulnerable.

While the band has elected not to have Stewart do double duty on fiddle and banjo, the veteran contributes the excellent original “Branchville Line,” a train-themed song of unjust imprisonment. Garrett’s finest vocal performance may be on “When the Bluegrass is Covered in Snow,” a traditional sounding number from—I believe—more than 50 years ago: Google the song title and J.D. Crowe for the original by Tip Sharp.

Continuing their own tradition of excellence, with the self-produced Familiar With the Ground, The Boxcars ably demonstrate that there is nothing better than a five-piece bluegrass band. No percussion required.

 

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

The Boxcars- All In   Leave a comment

My review of The Boxcars new album is up at http://www.countrystandardtime.com/d/cdreview.asp?xid=4885. Happy listening, and as always- thanks for visiting Fervor Coulee. Donald

IBMA Awards 2011- Lonesome River Band hits the stage   Leave a comment

9:04- I am not the biggest fan of LRB. When they came to Red Deer they performed very well and I enjoyed listening to them, and when I saw them at Stony Plain five or six years earlier they did the same. But their songs just don’t stick with me the way others’ do; without consulting notes, the only song I really recall from their Red Deer show is “I Bought Her a Dog,” and that’s not even one of ‘their’ songs. Still, folks love them, so I’m well in the minority. “The RCA Phonograph Record Time Machine” is a good one I have to admit. Nice guitar touches.

9:07- Dale Ann Bradley and Tim O’Brien- two of my favourite voices together- to present the next awards. A shout out to the radio hosts, bloggers and journalist- I’ll say, Thank you, for that, Tim.

EMERGING ARTIST OF THE YEAR
Darin & Brooke Aldridge; Balsam Range; The Boxcars; Sierra Hull & Highway 111; Joe Mullins & The Radio Ramblers

With two of the listed bands having won awards tonight already, I’d say BR and Boxcars are the favourites- The Boxcars, not a surprise given how the evening has went.

I wonder what the impact of these awards have on a band like The Boxcars’ overnight and next week sales.

9:11- Zip file and project of the year nominees:

The All-Star Jam: Live At Graves Mountain; Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out, The Crowe Brothers, Lonesome River Band, Mark Newton, Lou Reid & Carolina, Carl Jackson, Audie Blaylock & Redline, Carrie Hassler with Brand New Strings (artists); Mark Newton & Carl Jackson (producers); Rural Rhythm Records (label)

Almost Home, Larry Sparks (artist), Larry Sparks (producer), Rounder Records (label)

The Boxcars, The Boxcars (artists), The Boxcars (producers), Mountain Home (label)

Help My Brother, The Gibson Brothers (artists), Compass Records (label), Eric & Leigh Gibson and Mike Barber (producers)

Rare Bird Alert, Steve Martin and The Steep Canyon Rangers (artists), Tony Trischka (producer), Rounder Records (label)

Trains I Missed, Balsam Range (artists), Balsam Range (producers), Mountain Home (label)

This one could go several different ways- I am still hoping for the Larry Sparks album, but am not a fool. I’m sure it won’t win. I think I predicted Help My Brother, so…The Gibson Brothers- Help My Brother

 

Posted 2011 September 29 by Donald Teplyske in Uncategorized

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IBMA Awards 2011   Leave a comment

8:07- I’m guessing a standing ovation for The Grascals and the girls who joined them for “I Am Strong.” A moment for them to remember and not even I’m a bit enough jerk to criticise that performance.

8:08- Carl Jackson and Louisa Branscomb to present

VOCAL GROUP OF THE YEAR
Blue Highway
Dailey & Vincent
The Gibson Brothers
Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver
Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out

The Gibson Brothers finally come through for me. I think I called that one, or did I go with Blue Highway?

8:11- The first mention of ‘it is just an honour to be nominated.’

8:12- A teleprompter slam. But rehearse, I’m guessing.

Some life from Carl J. Some spontaneity.

Bass:

Barry Bales, Mike Bub, Missy Raines, Mark Schatz, Marshall Wilborn

And the 2011 IBMA Bass Player of the Year is…Marshall Wilborn. That one I did predict.

I have the highest regard for Marshall. He has been to Red Deer a couple times, once with Lynn Morris and again with Flamekeeper. A gent he be.

8:15- you can feel the love for The Boxcars as they head into “December 13.” A very good band, without doubt. Don’t take my previous comments out of context, please; I’ve enjoyed listening to their album since I bought it. I just think a band- any band- has to ‘earn’ their awards. They are all vets, so I guess they’ve earned the accolades. Just not as The Boxcars, perhaps.

I have a feeling the results of tonight will prove me wrong. Again.

8:18 Another break. Kyle- “Song of the Year” isn’t a major award? Okay, I’ll stop.

8:19- Live to tape with Chris Jones: Michael Cleveland and Charlie Lawson- I really respect M.C.’s devotion to traditional bluegrass and really wish I had been more ready to talk bluegrass with him when he was in Red Deer with Dale Ann the first time. Obviously a wealth of information.