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Jim Ed Brown
Rating *** 1/2
Just shy of his 81st birthday, Jim
Ed Brown returns to the recording studio, following a
noticeable absence of three decades, with 12 solo
performances. These include the title track, produced by veteran
trade journalist, author, academician, songwriter and now Plowboy
Records exec Don Cusic and the album's opener, When the Sun Says Hello to The
Mountain (Produced by Bobby Bare, the song features The Browns' sound as Jim Ed
musically reunites with sister Bonnie who, in Maxine's absence, bolsters her own
vocal with a recreation of the unavailable Brown sister's
true polymath, Cusic’s songs resonate with Brown, as they figure
prominently on this project, the theme of which is that older people in
general, and older artists in particular, remain vital and engaged as
they possess an unbeatable combination of maturity, wisdom and
experience that is wasted when dismissed by a culture that increasingly
worships youth.Bill Anderson also got a cut on
the album marking Jim Ed’s debut on Plowboy Records, an independent
label resulting from the partnership of
Cusic, R. Shannon Pollard (Eddy Arnold’s grandson) and music
industry veteran Cheetah Chrome.
what would a 21st century Jim Ed Brown album
release, one that contains reminders of the Browns’ sound, be without
the presence of the distaff partner in Jim Ed’s “third career”?Those who miss the hit streak of Jim Ed Brown’s duets with
Helen Cornelius will be richly
entertained as Jim Ed and Helen reunite with their cover of the Carl & Pearl Butler
classic, Don’t Let Me Cross Over
(although this inspired choice to reunite Jim Ed and Helen musically is
overshadowed by the distracting choice of this particular song- the
word chutzpah comes to mind- with respect to the real-life events that
expedited the inevitable professional breakup of Brown and Cornelius).
(other) “elephant in the room” with regard to this project is Jim Ed’s
well-publicized treatment for the lung cancer “wrapped around my
esophagus and my breathing tubes.”
Brown’s vocal chords were not impacted.His
sound is still warm, smooth, clear and distinct.No
lyric sheet required.
said, Jim Ed's otherwise impeccable vocals suggest a bit of diminished
lung capacity, heightening an awareness of what listeners have come to
expect from veteran artists who inevitably have had to make some
accommodation to the passage of time as they discover it takes
increased effort to hit the higher and lower notes they once did so
remains is Jim Ed Brown's essence; a comfortable and comforting musical
presence that still has so much to offer, not only with this collection
but with ones that should follow.
yearning for both new and real (read that traditional) country music
conviction have only to listen to James
first nationally-released CD, Honky
on the first of these eight Renegade Mountain Records recordings,
Country Singers, James takes a satirical jab at
hat acts that can only
mimic the authenticity that Carothers' phrasing and writing suggest is
parcel of James’ DNA. Further, Carothers has the deep
baritone chops to
convince any doubters.
authenticity, in the alcohol-infused imagery of what, at first glance,
(erroneously) seem to be a collection of drinking songs (as exemplified
Country Singers, the title song and Have
Another Round) permeates Carothers’ largely
self-written lyrics. (Trouble
in Paradise, musical allegory for our time,
was written by James’
father, Jim and is the only song found here that James did not write.)
excruciating pain of loss as it evolves into numbness is the theme of
Must Be Alive.
narrative of She’s
Too Crazy is enough to make a listener feel
smothered, while the
mystery of Mississippi
will intrigue others even as the earthiness of its lyrics will surely
natives homesick for the Magnolia state.
Did We Come From cautions that progress comes with
a cost, ending these
largely feel-good, flawless sessions on a contemplative note.
the critically-acclaimed Carothers has been compared to (as
wont to do) the singers most cited as the “gold standard” of
country music (whom I won't name as they are patently obvious), and
inspiration is evident, James’ originality transcends all of that.
Still, my ears
can't help but hear, if we must get into the
comparison game, a vocal style reminiscent of a couple more,
unmentioned country music icons: Nat
Stuckey and Earl
If you’re new to bluegrass music,
country music or if you’d love to hear old country songs revived
(largely) by the original artists bluegrass-style, courtesy of
participating artistsLorraine Jordan & Carolina Grass(Josh Goforth,Ben Greene,Tommy LongandJason Moore), this
is the purchase for you!
A year in the making, the resulting
13-song project leads off with two ofThe Kentucky Headhunters(Doug PhelpsandRichard Young)
joining Lorraine andJosh Gordonin an
interesting update of the 1997 release,Runnin’ Water. Rating *****
Raven's 1984 hit,I
Raven sharing lead vocals this time (withTim
Cifers) while Josh and Lorraine sing harmony.
John ConleetookCommon Manto the
top of the charts in 1983. More than three decades later,
Conlee breathes new life into the song, this time joined on
lead vocals by dobro player Brad Hudson, with harmonies but- guess who?
(Sensing a pattern?)
Crystal Gayleis on
hand with the singer's rerecording of her 1978 hitReady for the Times, this
time joined by Lorraine on lead vocals. While Jordan
continues to sing background with Goforth, they have added a third
backup singer to Crystal's performance: banjoistBen Greene.
(The recording was engineered by Gayle's son,Chris Gatzimos.)
a growing fan base with his 1985 recording ofDixie Road. Thirty years
later Lee shares lead vocals on the remake withTroy Pope, as
Lorraine and Josh harmonize. The Brownsdisbanded
in 1967, the same yearJim Ed Browngained
traction with his cover of theRoy Hamiltonhit,You Can Have Her. On this
rendition, Jim Ed shares lead vocals with guitarist Tommy Longbacked
Lorainne and Josh.
The lateConway Twittyleft
some big shoes to fill with his 1978 recording ofBoogie
Grass Band. Any cover of the song
would require a real boogie grass band to do it justice, but all things
are possible with the teaming of Jordan, Raybon, Brown, Greenwood,
Raven, Conlee, Phelps, Young,Lynn AndersonandT.G. Sheppardon lead
vocals, backed byRonnie Reno,Kelly Lang, Lorraine, Josh and
It was an equally large task to
repriseRandy Travis' 1986 hit recording ofDiggin' Up Bones, requiring, in
Randy's absence, to do justice. With Tommy on lead vocals
and Josh and Lorraine singing background the task was doable.
Sheppard has been singingDo You Want To Go To Heavenfor the
last 35 years as a solo artist- until now. Sharing lead
vocals with Long, T.G. also receives assistance from Tommy on
background vocals (joined by-you guessed it- Lorraine and Josh).
The lateKeith Whitley's 1988 tear-jerker,Don't Close Your Eyes, previously
recorded by Whitley's namesake son, receives a different treatment here
asJesse Keith Whitleyshares
lead vocals with Cifers. while Gorforth and Jordan's harmonies are
enhanced with the addition ofJeannette Williams'
Jordan joins Anderson in a duet of
Lynn's 1971 megahit,Rose Garden, harmony vocals
courtesy of Josh and Brad.
The lateFloyd Cramerwould
be surprised at the tribute paid to his 1960 classicLast Date, but Greene's
arrangement of the enduring instrumental has done him proud.
All the Way, Nu-Blu's follow-up toTen, is an eclectic 10-song
collection of songs that variously work- and otherwise.
Nu-Blu pulls off what would
seem to be a tall order, but the song choice is curious: While
the theme of theRory
Bourke-Charlie Black-Tommy Roccocollaboration
is timeless, certain lyrical references, brilliant for the time, seem
dated. One wonders why Nu-Blu didn't pick up on this, perhaps
updating the line aboutBryant Gumbel(who
nearly two decades ago) and war in Lebanon with a more contemporary
The title song is the most compelling in the way that a well-written
story song tends to be, but the album's lead single,Jesus and Jones, a collaboration
between Nu-Blu andSam Mooredetailing
the differences and the supposed lesser-considered, but equally-valid
similarities betweenGeorge Jonesand the
Messiah the Possum worshiped, is a performance-driven match, seemingly
designed to snag aCountry
Event of the Year nomination.
With this reissue of a
cross-section of her hits, MCA Nashville has added Reba McEntire to itsIcon-titled series of recordings.
Reba's fans, who don't already have these songs in their collection,
can't go wrong with this purchase.
The Roys’ fourth studio album
features liner notes written byBill Anderson.Anderson’s
liner describes the process of writing this 11-collection’s title song
(which ought to be pitched as a theme song to kick off ABC-TV’s new
season of the daytime talker of the same name) with Elaine and Lee.
(Spoiler alert: Bill had a good time and was so impressed with the
siblings he hopes to co-write with them again.)
another song found here, is not a reworking of the nearly 40-year-old
Anderson-Mary Lou Turnerduet of
the same title but rather a song written by Lee, Elaine andSteve
singer/songwriter/producerChase Coy’s groupSun Culture’s self-titled debut CD
is a summer sleeper.The
evocative eight-song collection seems to have been lost in the shuffle,
perhaps as a result of having been released too
That’s a shame because this is a
group with a future.Great
No particular song stands out.These
originals are all that good.
Check ‘em out- and spread the word!
Rating **** 1/2
Marshall and Red Cunningham and Wes "Rocco" Beale) are Nashville
transplants (late of the Northern Virginia pop/rockersSing Me Insomnia) whose blend of
creative songs and high-energy performances are gaining the trio
Their debut, six-song EP runs less 20 minutes but, beginning with the
title song (with which anyone in an established relationship who yearns
for the spark of love can identify), Telegraph hooks its listeners
winning instant fans.
Whether experiencing the intimidating attraction of a woman who isRed Hot,
the similarly mesmerizing and even slightly dangerousSugar,
this is not a cover of theBobby Rydell classic) who defies
taming or the outright and unapologeticallySexy,
Telegraph is a group to watch and one from which to expect the
Case in point,
the eclectic vocals and musicianship that channel the music of an
earlier era (Buddy Holly'sPeggy Sue-esque
stutter, the falsetto that paid the bills from rockers likeFrankie Valli,Del ShannonandLou Christie, with great guitar
solos and a bit of doo-wop thrown in for good measure).
But Telegraph is a 21st century group with yet a final song that will
appeal to 21st centurycountry-musicfans:Rhinestone Chapelmay
well become a requested selection, if not exactly traditional wedding
music, among couples (perhaps including those who, like the groom in
the song finding themselves at the altar despite premarital in-law
issues), taking their vows at such contemporary venues as theMusic Row Wedding ChapelandRhinestone
The title song suggests a measure
of hope that ties together this song collection’s various themes of
loving, leaving, introspection, moving on and moving forward.
Cold Wind Blows
Cold Wind Blows, meaning both the title song and
10 selections that follow, details the different phases of
relationships. Debra Lynachieves
this with vocal performances so compelling that listeners have
a blueprint, courtesy of one of the more pleasing and clear voices of
experience; a singer whose songwriting pen adds an ink-filled flourish
consistent with the creative license of imagination.
Debra Lyn’s second
studio album, over five years in the making, is yet another
collaboration between the singer and her husband,Jeff Silverman.Debra’s
co-writer on 6 of these 11 songs (includingWith or Without You,
with a theme of expected, impending loss that Lyn and Silverman
co-wrote with the song’s co-producer and co-arranger,Tim
Lorsch), Jeff also produced mixed and engineered these songs.
eerily uncanny approach to her performance of the title song,
introduces the recurring characters in these songs through the lens,
and familiar country-music theme, of marital intimacy turned triangular
the no-holds-barred morality play theme of these songs, paying
particular attention to the fallout from an adulterous relationship
from the perspective of each of the parties it touches.
Swim the Riveris a song of determination to
preserve (what’s left of) a relationship, whileCloser to Goodbyeis the
acceptance of what might be the inevitable “other side” of that same
coin (i.e., an acceptance, if not an embracing, of the truth as reality
Believe, “an introspective view on
depression,” escapes a maudlin denouement, courtesy of the musical
offer of a credible lifeline.
otherwise self-explanatory assessment and resulting ultimatum that
segues intoIf I Never Wake Up Again,
another example of the other side of the same coin in which the
protagonist weighs her alcohol-infused “choices.”
The album’s finale,Till I’m Gone,
paints a picture of a woman strong enough to leave a relationship to
which only she appears committed, but not without the anguish of a
woman still in love with a man unable to value her as she now must
(learn to) value herself.
These songs will
resonate with those who appreciate Debra Lyn’s artistry and the
sentiments of these lyrics, especially if they identify with the
situations portrayed in these songs.
vocalist Carolyn Routh on bass, Carolyn’s husband,Daniel,
vocals and guitar;Levi
Austin, vocals, guitar and banjo; Austin Koerner, mandolin;), a quartet
ably assisted by fiddlers Jim VanCleve and Ron Stewart, bring listeners
ten great songs (hence the title of this collection), any one of which
carries the album.
off withThat Road, a
testament to endurance that name-checksJ.D. Crowe, Nu-Blu’s music is for
the lyric-oriented as it explores several facets of the human condition
with a bluegrass sensibility.
Sherry Lynn has not coveredJim Reeves' newly-released and
remastered songs of inspiration. However, if the title of
this, Sherry Lynn's sophomore CD, sounds familiar for another
reason, it's because the pride of Woodbury, New Jersey and
her team knew that, if enough listeners heard these songs, the music
would attract more attention than it received when the 10-song
collection first dropped on June 18, 2013.
proved to be an inspired decision, since wider distribution resulted in
the immediate popularity of the album's first single,Girls Will Be Girls, a
lively, coming-of-age story in song.
the equally girl-friendly opener,I Like 'Em Like That,Girls Will Be Girlshas
listeners singing along to a series of songs that will put them in a
good mood if they're in need of escapism and, if life is otherwise
going well, will heighten that optimistic sensation.
sides close with the title song, as Sherry Lynn calls onCrystal Gayleto add
just the right blend to a duet that captures both the beauty, and often
the necessity, of living life in the moment.
of country music with bluegrass music is always up for discussion and
the increased frequency ofbluegrass
artists covering country songs (and country artists occasionally
returning the favor) the intersection is increasingly one of blurred
Vincent’s ears have ever burned during such philosophizing,Only Meis the
singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist’s assertive, genre-defying
response to attempts to pigeonhole or otherwise label her music beyond
it unique individuality.
The first disc of
this two-disc set is labeledBluegrass.The
second is titled Country.
features six bluegrass favorites but, once again,Robin Thickehasn’t
cornered the market on blurred lines.While
Rhonda’s performances of Jesse Daniel’sBusy
CityandLarry Cordle/Lionel Delmore’sI’d
Rather Hear I Don’t Love You (Than Nothing at All)won’t
raise any eyebrows, but the title song, Rhonda’s duet withWillie Nelson, does somewhat
Nelson’s behind (and sometimes ahead of) the beat phrasing, Willie can
be a challenging duet partner.
Happily, not only
is Rhonda up to the challenge,Nelson
brings off bluegrass.
Thanks toJack Greene, I never thought ofI
Need Somebody Bad Tonightas
being anything other than a country song, but Rhonda’s rendering of Ben
Peters’ classic copyright proves the versatility of bluegrass.
was more country than the duet pairing ofGeorge JonesandMelba MontgomeryonWe
Must Have Been Out of Our Minds.To
her credit, Rhonda resists the temptation to mimic Melba, but recruitingDaryle Singletary, a talent in his
own right, to recreate or otherwise imitate the Possum’s classic sound
(on what listeners find labeled as a bluegrass recording), if that was
the intention, does nothing to enhance what, under the circumstances,
is a bit cheesy performance.
Never Too Laterounds
out the “bluegrass” side of the ledger.
sides of country fare begin with Rhonda’s own composition,Teardrops
Over You.TwoBill Andersoncompositions
made the cut as Rhonda brings her own style to coveringEmmylou Harris'Beneath
Still Waters, Connie Smith’s classic recording ofOnce
Bill’s hit recording ofBright
The bright lights
dim but it’s country music all the way as Rhonda closes the country
side of her CD with the sobriety of two other classic country covers:George Jones’ recording ofWhen
the Grass Grows Over MeandErnest Tubb’sDrivin’
and guitarist JR Williams and his wife, fiddler Kati Penn-Williams
(with whom JR shares lead and harmony vocals) frontNewtown; a bluegrass quintet
rounded out by C.J. Cain (lead guitar, rhythm guitar),Clint
Hurd (Newtown’s mandola and mandolin play, Clint also contributes
harmony vocals), Terry Poirier (the group’s upright bassist, Terry’s
lead vocals offer JR and Kati an occasional respite).
Jim Surrett, supplementsNewtown’s
standout musicianship- that’s Jim listeners hear on resophonic guitar.
as mentioned, Cain otherwise hasNewtown’s
guitar sound covered, the group relies heavily on C.J.’s pen, as half
of the songs featured on this CD were written by Charles James Cain.
of the songs Cain didn’t write isDublin Blues.Newtowndoes a
credible cover version ofGuy Clark’s classic as well as
other story songs as it recounts themes of love, faith, war,Jesse Jamesand
country-music street cred by virtue of some of his country-flavored
can forget Dino’s hit, crossover hit,Houston?)
Martin’s eponymous weekly TV variety show was not known for featuring
country-music artists, country stars of the day dominated the Martin
show’s summer replacement series,Dean Martin Presents Music Country.
Star Vista Entertainment introduces this series of six DVDs (1080
minutes running time) featuring Dean’s weekly variety hour’s comedy
as the (retitled)Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts,
these slightly less-raunchy TV editions ofthe
famed Friar’s Club roasts featured faces familiar to Martin’s weekly
they were roasters or the ones being skewered, an all-star cast was
never have been among those gracing the dais, but Parton knew she had
secured multi-platform fame, when, during the course of Martin’sJimmy
at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas (original air date May 10, 1978), Dino
directed a Dolly Parton joke at Jimmy.Not
to be outdone, the comedy of Stewart roastersFosterBrooksandRed Buttonsalso
included jokes about Dolly!
years earlier (original air date April 25, 1975) at the same location,
roastmaster Dean Martin compared the “man of the hour”Sammy
Davis, Jr.to “Jimmy Deanpork
while the sausage king never got the chance to display his quick wit on
these celebrity roasts, Lynn Anderson was somewhat incongruously
selected as the token female roaster at the MGM Grand HotelKirk Douglasroast(original
air date October 12, 1973).
would only say of the “country-western” singing star that “She’s so
pretty, I’d watch her If she was on the radio.”Anderson’s
the punch line referenced the size ofDouglas’ penis.
ComedianJackie Gayle’s tamer reference was
to Kirk’s costar of a couple of years earlier,Johnny
movie career included his starring role, alongsideDouglas, in A Gunfight.)
contains not only the aforementioned roast, but also an unrelated
profile of Dean Martin suggesting, through footage featuring Martin not
only in his familiar tux, white shirt and red pocket square but other
attire, why Dino wasThe King of Cool- Always in Fashion.
American network TV, during the pre-cable era, seldom ventured beyond
the suggestive, Martin’s roasts always tested the censors’ limits.Perhaps
the standards and practices team was AWOL when, during theBob Hoperoast
at the NBC studios inBurbank,California(original
air date October 31, 1974), Flip Wilson flippantly referred to
so accustomed reaction shots of guests-of-honor and roasters laughing
their heads off in response to zingers that were seldom so funny as to
warrant such displays, were not privy to any facial feedback from
fellow celebrity roasters, including, of all people, Billy Graham!)
(writing?) of reaction shots, while these DVDs are billed as “complete”
roasts, the Bob Hope celebration appears to have been edited.Else
why were sports starsJohnny BenchandMark Spitz, each of whom joined
(fellow) roasters in making an entrance and were seated among themat
the head table, not among the featured speakers saluting Hope?
books and other recollections aboutJohnny
a man who those around him were afraid to cross.Glimpses
of this are, in retrospect, evident in the roast of the Tonight show
emcee at NBC’sBurbankstudios
(original air date: November 2, 1973).Once
again, edits don’t account for the silence of roastersGeorge GobelandCliff Robertson.
third (then current) wife,Joannajoined
roasters ranging fromBetty DavistoTruman Capotein
paying tribute to Carson in an event highlighted byRich Little’s impression, not only
of Johnny’s distinctive voice, but Carson’s equally unique mannerisms
captured in a montage, courtesy of Little’s rapid-fire visuals.
disc containing the Carson and Hope roasts also contains bonus footage
of TV special calledDean’s Place(featuring
not only Martin’s comedy but the sketch humor, if not the music, of
special guestJack Cassidy) as well as a tribute
toLegends of the Roast, featuring
recent footage of Rich Little and, the comedian whose age has rendered
him almost unrecognizable to those of us who no longer watch much
television and whom he last entertained decades ago:Jack Carter.
another disc contains “The Dean Martin Comedy Hour” (as the roast
telecast was then known), mockfests ofJack
original air date: February 22, 1974) andLucille
MGM Grand, original air date: February 8, 1975) as well as a
“Featurette” titled “The Art of the Roast”(e.g.,
post-roast era interviews withJimmie Walker,Carol Burnett,Tim Conway,Florence Hendersonand
roasted at the MGM Grand inLas Vegas(original
air date: February 27, 1975)The
Great One took a ribbing from his reunitedHoneymooners’ costars, in addition
to insults from some of the familiar roast regulars.Similarly,Don Rickles’ roast, at NBC’s
Burbank studio (original air date: February 8, 1974), was heavy on
barbs from Martin roast semi-regulars like Foster Brooks,Joey BishopandNipsey Russell, even as it
introduced the surprise element: the appearance of astronaut Gene
Cernan, who was called on to add to the mirth.
(though decidedly revisited out of chronological order),Martin
was himself feted early on at the Las Vegas MGM Grand (original air
date: February 27, 1976).On
that occasion, political oppositesBarry GoldwaterandHubert Humphreycame to
together to joinJoe Namathandthe
usual roasters (previously named)in
else would viewers seeRuth Buzzihitting
Goldwater with her purse and getting it on with Joey Bishop, let aloneHoward Cosellsinging
one of Martin’s signature songs,That’s Amore?
most of the roast participants, including its namesake, are no longer
with us. The roasts' humor is sometimes thin, often racist
and sexist and, by today's standards, forbidden. Butthese
DVDs remain time capsules of 20th century American humor of a certain
era which makes for must-see video (at least once) even in the less
innocent 21st century.
& Brooke Aldridge
Darin and Brooke
are “flying” with these 10 tracks- but not by the seats of their pants.
On the contrary,
each of these songs showcase the duo’s well-orchestrated ability to
blend tight, unique harmonies, top bluegrass musicianship and
interesting lyrics to their latest collaboration.
Leading off withMaybe
Just a Little, a Hayley Dykes Johnson song that brings a bit
of lyrical attitude to what are largely happy, even bouncy tunes
expressing meaningful sentiments.
Yes, the title
song ofClint Black’s Cracker Barrel collection of
love songs was
a hit 14 years ago.But
Black and his wife/duet partner,Lisa Hartman Blackmanage
to breathe new life into the song, while succeeding in mirroring the
Clint brings that
duality to there-recordings
of his hits (including Lisa's other duet contribution to this
For Me to Say) found here.
While three of
this CD's songs are duets (Clint pairs withCarolyn Dawn JohnsononOur
Kind of Love), the 11 other tracks leave no doubt
that Black remains a successful solo singer with plenty of love songs
to his credit.
wit: Black, who these days jokes he is the "Barry Whiteof
Clint Blacks," reprisesSomething
That We Do,Like
The Rain, One
well as a few of his other releases that didn't chart quite as
highly, along with three new "bonus tracks":Samantha,Only
my favorite, a song with the same lyrical integrity fans have come to
expect from Clint Black (but one focusing on another form of love
equally as enduring as several of the romantic recordings referenced
Won't Let Go.
Feed & Bailing Twine
Old Men, Ben Winship (mandolin, octave mandolin, mandola and
vocals) and John Lowell (guitar and vocals), have produced
with this, their fourth album, an 11-songs "collection of originals and
With an able assist fromDavid Thompson(bass
and harmony), the duo's clean sound, evocative lyrics,
musicianship and simplistically of style definitely tilt toward the
bluegrass side of the ledger. These recordings represent some
of John's and Ben's most-requested concert performances.
Ben and John had a hand in writing a handful of these selections.
Best bets? Ben'sMy
the experience of a man who was "born with a bad reputation,"
thanks to a surname that has resulted in attempts to keep a low
profile. The lyrics hint at a genealogical fascination with
the kind of family history that has produced both the infamous (Samuel Mudd) and a
more-deservingly famous direct descendant (Roger Mudd.) But
name-checkers will find no references to either Samuel or
Roger; only another prominent name- make that a
surname (i.e.,Rockefeller)- is name-checked in
not a paean to the actor best-known for his portrayal of James "Bud"
Anderson, Jr. on Father Knows Best.
Rather isNorman Blake's story song about an
ill-fated outlaw and his "true love."
A traditional instrumental,Elzie's
Farewell, offers a change of pace, while the guys offers a
bit of double-entendre with Ben's composition,Toolshed.
Growling Old Men seal the deal with aSummefly,
a song from the pen of one of my favorite singer/songwriters,Cheryl Wheeler.
Roys' third album is an interesting mix of six original songs and seven
bluegrass/gospel and country covers.
You Can Count On My Love, the opener, offers a
message of romantic reassurance to allay any doubt. (The song is aboutthatkind of
relationship even though rendered by siblings Lee and Elaine
Lee's tribute to his granddad. Workin'
the lyrical prayer of an imperfect, but grateful, man whose goal is
Enough For Mecelebrates
Elaine's take on the pain of divorce with a prayerful plea for help in
overcoming a feelings of being "incomplete" with the restoration of a
true survivor's independence.
But the title song, the closer, has been wisely chosen as The Roys'
first single from this baker's dozen. I can't think of a
better song, a tribute to the duo's fans (and a potential signature
song) with which to close Elaine's and Lee's live performances and/or
first single from his fourth country album, a cover ofJason Mraz'I Won't Give Up,
invites (favorable) comparisons, so here goes: Chitwood renders the
lyrics with determination equal to, and in a few
seconds' longer running time than, the original.
Indeed, most of these songs speak to timeless emotions and
Bobby notably delivers them all with integrity. Centerline
is a love song about, well, being centered (thinkI Walk the Line).The
Way You Drive Me Crazyis
as fun, nuanced look at romance asFaithfullyis a
wistful exploration of devotion (albeit perhaps misplaced) and Put Your
Lips Here (On Mine) is as direct as it is self-explanatory.
Barn on the RooftopandHow
about making the best of living in the moment. Priceless,
with its wry humor, is as realistic a take on values as the sentiments
of the title song are profound.
What Love Isexplores
the intersection of love and realism whileWho
attitude to mix of pride and challenged self-esteem born of
New Road Under My Wheels
he indicates in liner notes to this 12-song CD, my fellowauthor, Nate Gibsonhas 15
years on my discovery of Jerry Miller's music.
Joanna Mosca's EP, spotlighting six songs produced byBryan
White, showcases the Connecticut-born New Yorker's
favorite), the album begins with the musical journey of a woman who
ignores others' low expectations of her, emerging triumphant,
while the album's first single,Keep
On Driving(an optimism-driven alternative in the face of
adversity) builds on a theme of charting your own course.
Would You Still Be Hereponders
the pain of loyalty when it is not reciprocated. I
Guess That Says It Allreflects
on the "if only" aspects of a failed relationship with the wisdom
gained from 20/20 hindsight.
Let It All Beginis
a musical plea for being open to the possibilities of a new
relationship, following at least one failed coupling, based
on the ability to reinvent yourself, while the closer,Where
Does Good Love Go(a
mystification about a relationship that somehow fails to stand the test
link between Martin's musicianship and the comedy that made him famous
is intertwined not only in several of the offerings here but also in
his comedic liner note "response" to Brickell's rather
traditionally-expressed liner note thank-yous.
The title song will resonate with anyone who has experienced the best
possible outcome of unwed pregnancy. Love, loss,
friendship and/or a special bond are a recurring theme many of these
songs. Others, likeWho
You Gonna Take?, speak to attractive attributes such as
is the much-missed refugee from a family picnic whose presence would
spared those who made it from the unwanted attention of a "creepy
cousin" with a "handlebar mustache."
Remember Me This Wayis a
plea with which listeners can identify while this listener especially
enjoys the offbeat lyrical honesty ofSiamese
Cat, an exploration of the "package deal" that is often an
obstacle to a serious relationship.
The 12-song set opens with the group's rendition ofJerry
Took All the Ramblin' Out of Me.Other
standards includeRichard Marigny Jones'Trouble
in Mind, Hank Williams' Never Again Will I
Knock On Your Door andA.P. Carter's I'm
Leaving You This Lonesome Song.
The title song is an interesting, if not deflating, take on musicians'
(and philosophers' metaphorical) romanticism of the
road. It's an excellent showcase of Keith Garrett's
writing skills as are the tales of a heartbreaker known asCorneliaand the
with Chris West).
In the mood for an instrumental? Ron Stewart'sSkillet
Lawson & Quicksilver continue to entertain bluegrass fans with
these 11 songs, some of which are unexpected diversions, beginning with
the opener, a cover ofLee Greenwood's
Doyle says he cried when he heardHow
Do You Say Goodbye to Sixty Yearsfor the
first time. One listen to this poignant tale of loss is
enough to let the listener know why.
Say Hello to Heavenis a
commentary on loss, under markedly different circumstances,
that could have- and should have- been prevented.
The wry rendering ofIt's
Hard to Be Forgottenis
bluegrass at its best.
Lawson & Quicksilver also impress with a cover ofBryan White's recording ofOne
Small Miracle. They
pay tribute toDobro
have some fun withJim & Jesse'sFiddlin'
Love is All You Wantare
all songs of contentment, whileBy the Waters of the Clinch
is yet another stylistic detour onRoads Well Traveled, showcasing
the musicianship of Lawson and his talented quintet, in the form of an
& the Kleshas (lead vocalist Stephanie Carlin, her Craigslist
companions- percussionist Wes Reid and bassist Russ Flynn- electric
guitarist Xander Naylor and keys/piano man Javi Santiago) blend jazz,
funk and avidya (translated from Sanskrit as the incapacity to see
something for what it really is) have received the support of Kickstart
contributors resulting in this June, 2013 release (pre-orders
With its Kleshas (i.e., why we suffer) clues (as described in Buddhist
texts), these 11 tracks (including the title song) make for an
innovative, if somewhat jarring, listening experience.
While an introduction to the group's music prompts a listener to wonder
"Where are they going with this?," each selection provides a
These songs are not for the casual listener. They don't work as
To appreciate this work requires a bit of work. The listener
must be engaged and a thinker by nature.
Body of Leadis
the first single, but I'm partial toThe
all the review copies that have come my way in 2013, this is the best
one I've received- so far.
Mike Aiken has written (or, in some cases, co-written) the majority of
the 12 songs found here and produced an album that is both true to his
experience and imagination in a way that takes his audience along with
an improbably catchy song I couldn't help but sing along with as I
pondered all of the elements that make it infectious. The
Aiken co-wrote with Austin Cunningham) is best expressed by Mike
himself when he indicates, "When Austin and I set out to write a
traditional, cry-in-your-beer song, I don't think either of us thought
we'd catch it so close to the bone."
The intricacy of ofNight
appeals to me, but whether it's the title song. or any of the others
found here, they are all attention-getting and thoroughly enjoyable.
Silas Fermoy (Joshua Mash on vocals and keyboards), Jordan Brower on
bass and Sam Ellner on guitar) have released three of the six songs on
this, the trio's debut EP, for free download on their social network.
While that generosity may not win them as many fans in corporate
circles of songwriter as it will among Silas Fermoy's targeted
demographic, the creative community must respect that Mash wrote and
co-produced each of theChaptersselections.
What began as a Brooklyn-based collaboration between Mash and Brower
has blossomed, with the addition of Ellner, into a trio of rockers
that, with songs as strong asLights
Burn Bright, has the potential for longevity..
Nash wrote on each of these
nine selections and he also had a hand (along with Craig "The
Regulator" Frank and Bill Lefler) in the production.
Backed by Jonathan Flaugher (bass), Ben Peeler (steel guitar and
mandola), Oliver Kraus (strings) and Michael Zsoldos (tenor saxophone),
Jay performs his original material with whatever fervor that seemingly
inspired his emotional lyrics.
It's hard to pick out a favorite among these disparate
choices. Some will be partial to the wistfulness ofSometimesor to
drawn to the determination of I
Won't Let Go, but since I go for wry humor in a
well-constructed lyric I'm partial toThe
Silver Anniversary Celebration
From the first notes of the title
song on this, her seventh album (according to the liner notes- which
contradicts the information on Petrella's Web site),Petrella confirms that, a
quarter-century after the Arizonan first came to the attention of
Playback Records' president Jack Gale, the "first lady of country soul"
still has the chops that caught the interest of Nashville's erstwhile
Jack and Jim Pierce produced these 11 songs, a few of which have the
potential to reignite the national interest Petrella sparked when,
after Gale signed the singer/songwriter to his label, Petrella released
a succession of albums that included fiveCash
100 chart singles, six singles on the country charts, and yet another
single that peaked at #14 onBillboard's
Hot Country Sales chart.
This eclectic collection of songs fuses Petrella's rock, country and
gospel influences in such a way that Petrella's flawless performances
are a larger draw than the lyrics, but momentum is achieved, and
success sustained, with radio hits. In that regard, Petrella
shines not only with the aptly-titled title song, but also withWhat
Good Is A Love Like This(curiously
credited to an "unknown" writer and publisher),Working
in the USAand
Like A Man to Drive.
Living Room Sessions
Living Room Sessions, a (don't you
love it?) Wrinkled Records release, drops almost 47 years after B.J.
Thomas' first gold-selling hit on Scepter Records in the form of an
album of "stripped down, intimate acoustic re-imaginings of 12 of his
most renowned songs."
The opener,Don't Worry Baby,
likeI'm So Lonesome I Could Cry(Thomas'
first gold record), was a cover version of a standard when Thomas first
recorded it and, in that sense (B.J.'s cover of Thomas' cover?), is
atypical of the other songs on what I call a greatest hits
collection- with a twist.
At age 70, Billy Joe Thomas has found a way to breathe new life into
the soundtrack of many of our lives by re-interpreting his hits,
courtesy of duet partners ranging from Keb Mo (Most of All) to
B.J.'s label mate, Etta Britt (New Looks from an Old Lover).`
Reinterpretation take the form of taking liberties with the
instrumentation familiar to Thomas' fans while largely showing respect
for the original lyrics. That, coupled with the guest
artists' keeping their egos in check, makes for an objective that is
largely fulfilled, with any reservations coming from purists
or simply those expressing personal preference.
Lonesome. (the sibling vocal trio of guitarist Buddy Robertson,fiddler
Charli Robertson, mandolinist,Kelsi
Robertson Harrigill, Kelsi’s husband, banjoist Paul Harrigill, acoustic
bassist Dominic Illingworth and reophonic guitarist Michael Stockton)
all else, a group of six flexible, young musicians who, while anchored
in tradition, are in the forefront of the contemporary wave of
Foot in the Graveis
perhaps a penultimate song of indecision while my favorite, the
Blue, (penned by Paul Harrigill), is a surprisingly
refreshing exploration of, and take on, the emotional theme of its
Proud Land (CD)
like to think of Royal Wade Kimes' latest CD as not only a concept
album, but, as I envision it, a soundtrack to the Civil War.
In any case, it is a story in song, related from the perspective of a
veteran at war's end reflecting back on the sense of duty, as well as
all of the division, separation and loss, that brought him and his
fellow Americans to that point.
Most of us were born almost a century- if not more than a century- too
late to make such a statement about late 19th century reality
definitively, but it is a fact that A Proud Landis the
soundtrack toDixie Burns, a short film that has
been shown onStan Hitchcock'sBlue
The 12 songs showcase Kimes' ability to set what we've all been told in
history classes about the emotional drama of War Between the States
(and the legend of Jesse James) to music. This is not an
endeavor that Royal Wade takes lightly and it is his dedication to
musically telling the tales of, in the case of Frank and Jesse James,
brothers united, as well as the emotional narrative of brother against
brother (the latter, to Kimes' credit, in an even-handed
manner) that preserves history as we know it while educating and
informing listeners in engrossing story-song form.
While the album quite nicely stands alone, Kimes' fans will
be glad to know thatDixie Burns(titled
after one of the graphic songs depicting the horror of war) is now
available on DVD. The DVD version (running 24
minutes, courtesy of six minutes of commercials from the TV special
having been excised), which Kimes produced and directed, features Royal
Wade starring as a Confederate Commander against a backdrop
of Civil War reenactors, a reenactment of the Battle of Shiloh and the
music video versions of songs, all of which Kimes wrote,
featured on the CD, includingDixie
the Wagon, Johnny,White
Blah, Love and War
a testament to The Rescues (Adrianne Gonzalez, acoustic guitar,
electric guitar; Gabriel Mann- piano and keys; Kyler England, acoustic
guitar, bass and ukulele; Rob Giles, drums, bass acoustic guitar,
electric guitar, string and horn arrangements) that they are now in
their fifth year as a quartet with all of the original members still on
board and with their music being featured on network TV.
Songwriters credits for the 12-song CD belong to the group collectively
as do vocals, while it is noted that the CD is "Produced and Recorded
by Rob Giles [with] Additional production and recording on [tracks] 3,
5, 9 by Gabriel Mann. Track 8 co-produced by Ari Levine."
Notably, Kyle England took first prize in the 2010 USA Songwriting
Competition Country Category.
The otherwise Lennon-McCartney approach to song credits and a
hodge-podge production mixture are apparent from the first notes ofDid
It Really Even Matter? This is enlightening from
the standpoint that one of the few understandable lyrics to the opener
explains the album's title.
The energetic, Los Angeles-based rock band appears to older ears, (the
only ones I have) more accustomed these days to listening to country
music, to shift from their initially loud and (save for an occasional
aping of Kurt Cobain despair), largely unintelligible lament (courtesy
of an apparent attempt to pay homage to head-banging music that
overwhelms the words) to something approaching technopop. As the album
progresses, patience is rewarded as The Rescues' versatility becomes
more apparent as they showcase their four-part vocal harmonies in a
focused mix that enables them to be both heard and understand.
Before I realized that, as previously mentioned, the Rescues wrote each
of these songs, I thought perhapsRunawaywas a
cover of theDel Shannonclassic.
The Rescues' song of the same name is one of the half-dozen found here
that don't require a lyric sheet and, as such, "rescue" (pardon the
pun) the CD from the fate of those discs that merely make good coasters.
Finds A Way
a Grammy-nominated album but, if you're looking for value, the 13 songs
on this CD might beyourincentive
to buy it.
If the thrill of a receiving a Baker's Dozen songs in an economic
climate where 12 songs are the usual maximum (with perhaps 10 or 11- or
even fewer on an EP- being the norm) doesn't sway your decision to buy
or not, there's always the Grascals' consistently tight harmonies and
musicianship. They never disappoint.
As a reviewer, I can even make a case here for innovation.
The Grascals are famous for taking hits from other genres and giving
them a bluegrass feel. For purposes of considering the merits
of the songs of this album, let the sextet's recording ofSweet Baby Jamesserve as "Exhibit A." Anyone familiar with story of thatJames Taylorclassic
is not surprised that it has not been covered by artists with anywhere
the frequency cover versions of hits of that enormity are regularly
released. So while any attempt at a bluegrass version of the
song would, by definition, be considered innovative, the Grascals do
not bill themselves as a novelty act.
Innovation and creativity are not the same thing and this album suffers
from a lack of creativity. Some instincts are
right: The title song is probably the strongest. AndMystery Trainisn't
so tired that the Grascals' cover can't revive it (not that it needs to
be revived), most importantly for a new generation for whomElvis Presleyis
known, if at all, as a favorite of the listener's
They Call Me Lovehas an interesting "hook" but its
point becomes repetitive even before the song's bridge. Pass It Onappears
lyrically-interesting and potentially a promotional tool for addiction
self-help groups until it becomes the latest in the line of songs
witnessing for Jesus. For these purposes, the more subtle and
effective inspirational message appears in the greater "honesty"
exhibited in the lyrics ofRoad to Surrender.
its moments for those who like cryin' in your beer songswhileEleven Eleven(the album's only instrumental)
relieves the tedium of the ordinariness previously addressed in a
project that suffers chiefly from a lyrical weakness in the opinion of
a jaded reviewer who values commanding lyrics, except when listening to
an outstanding instrumental.
& Brooke Aldridge
At Red, White and Bluegrass!
husband-and-wife team of Darin & Brooke Aldridge chose
Morganton, North Carolina's annual Red, White and Bluegrass Festival
(an International Bluegrass Music Association Festival of the Year
nominee) as the site for a "live" album featuring 12 past, present and
potentially future hits.
The couple's engaging personalities, as reflected by their stage
banter, shine as brightly as their musical performances (though the
fact Darin and Brooke produced the album may explain why, whatever
edits occurred in post production, Brooke's glaring grammatical error
during one of these brief asides remains, be it unnoticed by both the
couple and executive producers Mickey Gamble and Chris White or merely
in support of the live music's goal to keep it real).
In any event, this is an interesting collection of fan favorites
beginning with the duo's hit,Lonely
Ends Where Love Begins. Darin and Brooke also
manage to add enough spice to their versions ofMaking Plans,No One Needs To KnowandTo Know Him Is To Love Himthat
listeners don't long for the originals (nor even earlier covers!)
an inspirational theme worthy of a multicultural society while anyone
who has ever put a lot of energy into a relationship that s/he was
unable to maintain will appreciate another of the Aldridges' previously
released recordings found here,Sweetest
Waste of Time.
Brooke and Darin took time when conversing with the Morganton festival
audience to thank and spotlight the talented musicians who
were also a part of this project. Strangely, the band members and
their contributions are not clearly identified in the CD's liner notes,
which also lack a lyrics sheet.
Am Going To The West
terrific singer, songwriter and musician, John Lowell is not only a
triple-threat talent, he is an example of true artistry of the variety
that endures if not that which continues dominates the charts in the
absence of other compelling, albeit irrelevant, considerations such as
youth and sex appeal.
be sure,Lowellis the
“voice” of experience gleaned first as a founding member of Kayne’s
bluegrass band’s imprint continues to be heard in some of John’s songs
just as his penchant for traditional country music (of the self-written
variety) is evinced by many of the Lowell-penned selections (including
the title song) found here.
solo project is gaining attention even as he continues as a current
member of the acoustic duo (with Ben Winship), The Growing Old Men.
with a “legitimate” voice reminiscent ofJohn Denver, John Lowell is an
observer blessed with the ability to recount both what he has witnessed
and what he has imagined with vivid lyrics and engrossing themes.
it’s exploring divergent directions ofSarah
Foster, (the latter with its lyrical and musical references tothatTom Dooley), Lowell’s unique cover
ofEight More Miles to Louisville,
or simply John’s painful portrait of adultery (Am I Not Enough)
Lowell sustains the attention of his listener.
Stacy's earlier online
Music & Video Reviews are