Thursday, October 13, 2005

"Room To Breathe" - Reba McEntire

Reba, TV Star, Broadway Performer, Country Singer. Reba came into the country music business in 1980 when a new breed of country singers were trying to bring traditional country music back to Nashville, in the Ninety's Reba joined the hosts of country singers turning to a country pop, more contemporary type music, even doing a CD of pop covers. Reba hasn't done a studio CD since 1999 with her "So Good Together" CD, which is a very good contemporary country piece of work.
Reba's new album is very eclectic, containing a wide variety of material. In Reba's words "This CD feels autobiographical to me because it has every type of music I've ever recorded. There is everything from hard-core country on one end, to contemporary on the other with bluegrass, gospel and jitterbug in the middle."
Simply a great production (though overdone at times with all the synth) by Reba, Buddy Lannon and Norro Wilson. Reba's vocals sound fresh and emotive and for the most part, a great selection of songs. It has a great tonal quality to it, very easy on the ears, very rich and natural instrument sounds. Kudos to Hank Williams (no relation) of Mastermix for a great mastering job. He's heading towards being one of the best and most sought after mastering engineers in Nashville, especially since the sad passing of "Golden Ears" Denny Purcell. Real great rustic tones on the acoustic instruments.
The standout traditional country song on the album is "I'm Gonna Take That Mountain", the first radio single. This song soars with it's great 3 part country harmony and the rich mix of fiddles, mandolin ,banjo and country instrumentation. This song is in a league of it's own and unfortunately, the only super traditional country song on the album. "Sky Full Of Angels" is a great acoustic Christian Country song with a real bouncy feel to it and some great background vocals, some nice dobro and a real nice rich texture to the music (One of my favorites).
"Somebody" is a great country ballad, done in a country fashion with some great mandolin and acoustic guitar- a song that has a good story to it that draws you in. "Once You've Learned To Be Lonely" is an incredibly beautiful, sad acoustic country song with the help of Alison Krauss and Dan Tyminski. (Another Favorite) It has a message once again that draws you into the song. I wish that Alison Krauss's fiddle work was louder in the mix and also the backup vocals, you wouldn't recognize who the singers were unless you read the credits. Still a great song. "Moving Oleta" is a real heartbreaker that addresses the subject of an older husband dealing with moving his wife into a nursing home, this is just a great song sung with a ton of passion, great backup vocals (Another of this reviewers favorites.)
Another song that I like a lot is "He Gets That From Me", a song that deals with a wife telling about attributes her son gets from her and also from her husband, another heartbreak song with a message. Love the way the song winds up about the son saying he misses his dad and the wife, missing her ex-husband says He gets that from me. Great song with some great hooks.
The other six songs are mostly typical mid-tempo Reba type songs (one,a duet with Vince Gill) that are pretty good depending on your tastes. Overall, I found this album to be very refreshing, well done and shows that Reba is still very much in the business of making good music, in her busy life.
Copyright 2004
Visit Reba at:

"Martina" - Martina

Martina's first self titled album "Martina", her eighth overall effort is quite an eclectic affair. Martina and her husband bought their own studio so that they could record without pressure and at their own pace. If you have only heard "This One's For The Girls", which sounds like a typical Martina type song, you can not judge this album, it has a bit of everything from Nashville country to acoustic, almost bluegrass music. Martina says " From a production standpoint, I really wanted it to be warm and to sound more like an old vinyl record as opposed to really clean, pristine and digital. " I would have to say that she really achieved this goal, the album has a really warm, realistic sound to it, lacking loads of special effects and the acoustic guitars have a real nice earthy sound to them. She keeps a nice balance of fiddle, pedal steel even on the more pop sounding songs giving the whole album a refreshing modern country sound using traditional country instruments. The Nashville String Machine is used tastefully without being overdone. A couple of the songs have a beautiful sparse feeling to them which is refreshing with Martina's strong, but confident sweet sounding soprano.
The album starts out with a great song "So Magical", which is a bit crossover, but just is a strong encouraging song full of great hooks which Martina brings to life. "She's a Butterfly" is a beautiful upbeat, country song which really pulls you in. The petite brunette has picked a great selection of songs in which the lyrical content is something you listen to, she really has a collection here of songs that either have a message or that you can relate to ,pull your heart out or that just down right lift your spirits.
"Wearing White" is one of my favorites, it's an acoustic country tune that has a very sparse arrangement, but the melody and acoustic guitar lines just make you wish the song was longer. It's a fast paced almost bluegrass tune about a gal with a not perfect past, but insists on wearing white at her wedding. Martina really sounds at home on this warm uplifting song. "Reluctant Daughter" is another one of my favorites. It is really close to a bluegrass gospel song with a modern touch and once again, a sparse recording with some great fiddle. It's about a lady pleading to make her relationship with the Lord closer (Great Song).
Another just great song is "God's Will", the title really fooled me, I thought it was going to be another gospel song about doing God's will, no it is about a boy named Will who is always referred to as Gods' Will. This is my absolute favorite. Will has a disability, he is first described as having braces on his legs and has trouble walking. (She met him on Halloween, dressed up as a sack of leaves, that's God's Will)-intro line, great story and melody, ends with the same line and then about another minute of quiet acoustic music going into variations of the songs melody. If this song doesn't really move you, nothing will, Martina really puts herself into the song and talks about how this person effects her life (He always prays at dinner time but never for himself--),another line, just a brilliant inspiring song. Martina closes the album with a live version of "Over The Rainbow", that is just plain awesome, sometimes you can just jump genres for fun and I just love this beautiful, emotive version of this classic song.
In closing I would say that a lot of work was put into making this album work, Martina has become one of the top ladies of country and this work showcases that.
Visit Martina at:

"Easy" - Kelly Willis

"Delightful", "Refreshing" and "Emotive" would be words that I would use to describe this great new offering by Kelly Willis on Rykodisc. This album is produced by Kelly Willis and Gary Paczosa. Mastered by Doug Sax, one of America's best. Notable guests include Lloyd Maine's on different instruments, Bruce Robison (Kelly's Husband), Dan Tyminski and Alison Krauss. Kelly wrote 4 of the songs and co-wrote 2 of the songs. One song was penned by Bruce Robison.
This recording shimmers, one of the best acoustic recordings I've ever heard, sparse, but full sounding, very natural sounding. Credit a lot of this to Doug Sax who has done mastering for Alison Krauss and also did "Home" for the Dixie Chicks, a similar type album.
Kelly sings with confidence, emotion, a great bunch of songs, sounds very comfortable with the material. What sticks out is her beautiful twangy voice with kudos to 2 great acoustic guitarists Chuck Prophet and Mark Spencer. This CD should make all country music lovers happy, from traditionalists to Nashville Country. It is just great acoustic country music, which seems to be becoming more popular.
It is a short CD, only 36 minutes long, we all know a CD can hold a lot more, but I sort of liked the feeling the CD gave me, it left me wanting more, not a bad song to be found, not a wasted riff.
It's hard to find a favorite song for me, everything is so good. Really did like the original opener "If I left you", an upbeat ballad with a beautiful melody and awesome guitar parts. Also, another original stuck out" Not what I had in mind", original haunting ballad with Alison Krauss on background vocals. One more song I have to mention is "You can't take it with you", a blue grassy flavored song. Looking forward to more like this from Kelly.

"Lonely Runs Both Ways" - Alison Krauss and Union Station

I am writing this review as I listen to it for the first time. Just read the liner notes. Honestly, I have been looking forward to this CD for some time, big fan of AKUS. This is their first CD of new studio material in a couple of years. The disc is mastered by Doug Sax, my favorite mastering engineer. The album starts out with a beautiful ballad "Gravity". Great song, really blows me away. This is the richest sounding AKUS CD that I have ever heard. Very warm, great use of stereo field, crisp and rich sounding stringed instruments.
The second song "Restless" is a masterpiece of a love song with some great background vocals and Alison really using the full range of her beautiful voice. "Goodbye is All We have" is a beauty of a slow song with Alison at her best, great dobro by Jerry Douglas. There are some nice subtle special effects which give the song a newgrass sound. "Union House Branch" is a great bluegrass instrumental. (Written by Jerry Douglas) Almost sounds like strings in the background, but it is just Alison and the way it is recorded. "Wouldn't Be So Bad" (Gillian Welch) is another great slow ballad. Some angelic toned lead guitar by Ron Block. Great dobro and violin. This disc is a combo of traditional bluegrass and more modern sounding newgrass. All great music though. "Pastures Of Plenty" has the sparse bluegrass sound with Dan singing a Woody Guthrie song. Real nice banjo by Ron. Creative bass by Barry. This really is some great tight material. Alison has the best road band and studio band there ever was and they are the same folks. Very unusual in the music world today. no hired guns needed here. "Crazy As Me"- this is a really interesting song, what a melodic masterpiece. This band cooks in an audiophile's dream. This is a real special song with the band taking some new musical directions that are just out of this world, creative, some nice syncopated rhythms going on with the guitars. "Borderline" is a more traditional AKUS production. This is where the CD title comes from. Great harmonies, honestly, many songs that I like better on this fifteen song CD. "My Poor Old Heart" is another traditional sounding bluegrass song. I must say ,incredible use of stereo field in the mix. Forget SACD, HDCD, just record a great CD and leave the rest to Doug Sax.
The sound quality of this album is incredible. "Doesn't Have To BE This Way" is another beautiful ballad, more sparsely produced, great lyrics. This is written by RI Castleman who wrote many of the best songs on this disc. Jerry Douglas sounds incredible as he does throughout the CD. "I Don't Have To Live This Way" sang and written by Ron Block is a nice change of pace, upbeat acoustic country with that high lonesome sound. "If I didn't Know Any Better (John Sherrill and Mindy Smith) This has an acoustic country touch and you can definitely hear Mindy Smith's sound in the song. Nice special effects, incredible, this song just is a blow away. The disc ends with "A Living Prayer" (Ron Block) a very beautiful gospel tune, very sparse, just Alison singing with Dan and Ron playing acoustic guitars. She really hits the top of her range here, this is just a great ,beautiful encouraging song. Great melody. In closing, I would have to say that this is Alison's best album yet. Just a great collection and I absolutely love nine out of the fifteen songs.
Go visit Alison at

"The Notorious Cherry Bombs" - The Notorious Cherry Bombs

This album is probably the best album to come out of Nashville this year. The Cherry Bombs were Rodney Crowell's backup band in the Seventies. Everyone from that band is here except for Emory Gordy Jr. on bass replaced by sessions ace Michael Rhodes. The original drummer Larry Londin passed away in 1992, replaced by sessions drummer Eddie Bayer.

There is a nice variety of songs here from country to alt/country with a little fifties rock added in. There are two of the best lead guitarists around to enjoy in Vince Gill and Richard Bennett, each with their own style. Producer and head of Universal South Records Tony Brown, who once played with Elvis is back pounding the keys again. This band is in a groove, really enjoyable to listen to them interact. Hank Devito adds some great steel. There are some horns on some of the tunes.

When you have a label head in the band, you get the best of everything; recorded at Ocean Way Studios in Nashville and mastered by Hank Williams of Mastermix. The sound is just perfect produced by the Cherry Bombs, but I would guess that Tony Brown and Vince Gill did most of the producing.

I doubt that the original Cherry Bombs would have sounded a lot like this pristine perfect recording, they probably had a rougher, more alt/country sound if they backed up Rodney Crowell. This album spotlights both Vince and Rodney equally on vocals and the recording is plain ear candy, not the raw recording sound that you hear on a lot of alt/country. But, this reviewer loves the product, full of great songs with equal song-writing credits to Crowell and Gill.

"Dangerous Curves" written by Crowell and sung by Crowell is a mid-tempo alt/country gem with Vince playin' some great guitar, a song about messing with temptation. "Forever Someday" is a classic Vince Gill love ballad in that beautiful high tenor with a more traditional backing. Great steel and piano. What would a record with Vince on it be like without one of his great ballads.
"On The Road To Ruin"- This song has a fifties rock sound with Tony Brown playing some killer piano and some awesome lead guitar work by Richard Bennett. Crowell and Vince sing so great together. I can't say enough about the great rhythm section of Bayers and on drums and Rhodes on bass; really gives the album some great lower end sound. "Heart Of a Jealous Man" has a darker sound with Vince singing in a lower range with a mid-tempo rock sound including some banjo; brilliant. This song seethes with emotion thru and thru. "Oklahoma Dust" is a great song, Vince has that chickaboom sound going and some great lyrics with some great imagery. The record starts out cookin' with "Let it Roll, Let it Ride" with Vince and Rodney sharing lead vocals. Upbeat Rocker with horns and Richard Bennett on some great lead guitar that brings the Blues Brothers to mind. Some awesome bass runs by Rhodes.
"If I Ever Break Your Heart" sung by Gill is a strong country rocker that has some great musical hooks, great Gill lead guitar that is a little more raw and bluesy than usual. Rodney sings the bridge. Brilliant production and textures and really nice backup vocal arrangements.
This leads to this reviewer's favorite song "Making Memories of Us", a Rodney Crowell song with Rodney singing lead on a delicate, emotive song about real love. Just a beautiful melody that explodes when Vince comes in on the chorus with his high lonesome harmony.

This album is plain just a great listen, some awesome production of the best musicians and songwriters that Nashville has to offer.
Go visit them at:

"Finding Our Way" - The Mickeys

What do you get when you put together 27 year old twin gals with acoustic music that's the quality of a major label? You get the original sounding Mickeys, vocals that ring with bell like clarity and breathtaking harmonies. They have been singing together since the age of 4.
They formed the Mickeys in 2000 and have been living and playing the Nashville Clubs ever since. Their sound is nothing short of refreshing. Honestly, I have never been so impressed by a new album as this one. It's an acoustic sparsely recorded album that sounds very full, reminding me of an Alison Krauss and Union Station Recording. The guitars (John Albani and Kent Unruh) shimmer, the fiddles( Wanda Vick) and banjos (Wanda Vick) never sounded better. The acoustic guitar picking is great and sounds great. You can hear Country, Celtic and Bluegrass influences, but to me, it's just great acoustic country music. They have a national distribution deal set up, their own label, Riverbeat Music. It will be released on July 1, 2003.
The gals wrote 5 of the 11 songs. Their vocals have an original quality to them, that is indescribable. The gals produced the album with John Albani.
Although their beautiful vocals and harmonies are the centerpiece of this album, I can't say enough about the recording quality, musicians, real big label sound, mastered to perfection.
Every song is very good, I will mention my favorites of the 11 tracks. "Dixie Wire" (personal favorite) is a slow intense ballad, full of emotion. Other standouts include "Old Kentucky Wind" (great dobro by Wanda Vick), a mid-tempo bluegrass tune, "All I Ever Wanted Was You", an upbeat tune with great harmonies, "Smoke And Mirrors", an upbeat tune about being deceived, "Before You're Home", upbeat bluegrass tune( great fiddle-Wanda Vick, great acoustic guitar) and "My Way Again", an awesome mid-tempo tune with some banjo and great fiddle.
Go Visit The Mickeys at:

"Show" - Allison Moorer

The Title of this package is very appropriate, what you get is a great show. You get a 15 song CD and a DVD including all 15 tracks and a bonus track. Recorded at 12th and Porter in Nashville to an overflow crowd, you really get the experience captured well, with the crowd involved and Allison bantering some. This was recorded 1/4/2003. Kudos to all involved, it's a super recording.
Sometimes, Allison and her band rock and then sometimes they go slow or acoustic on you, real good song selection, including most of her best material, all songs by her except a great cover of Neil Young's "Don't Cry No Tears".
Her older sister, Shelby Lynne joins her on three songs in a row, which is a real treat. Kid Rock even makes an appearance on the Closer "Bully Jones", which rocks a bit too much for me.
She really nails "Alabama Song" ,title track for her 1st album. The crowd really loves it, applauding in the song. "Soft Place To Fall", probably her most well known song, she lets her sultry, emotive voice pull you into the Show.
"Yessiree" from "Miss Fortune" (most recent album), is a great midtempo song with some great guitar. There is plenty of great guitar pickin' in this Show. "I'll Break Before I Bend" is a great statement song which says in a very straight forward way that she would rather sing and play songs that she likes rather than compromise and be popular. Her vocals could easily be tamed by Nashville's' country pop machine and make her a star, to which she says "No". After she finishes the song she says "That will probably be my first hit", (said in a tongue in cheek manner). Probably why she left Major Label, Universal South to go to a small indie label Sugar Hill, where she would have the freedom to pursue whatever she wants.
"Let Go" is a beautiful acoustic heartbreak ballad. Allison is a great lyricist, using some great ideas and imagery. "Steal The Sun" is a great song that has a jazzy feel about it about stealing the sun before tomorrow comes, great hooks and some unique guitar parts.
Now, we move into my favorite part of the show, three songs with Allison and sister; Shelby Lynne. They have some interesting banter in between songs. "Bring Me All Your Lovin" is a beautiful mid-tempo love song where they exchange verses and harmonize on the chorus which has a great musical hook. Nice acoustic guitars and pedal steel on this mellow song, great lead guitar break too.
The next song "Is Heaven Good Enough for You" is the next number that they sing together. I just learned the story behind the tune which gives me why it is so emotional and explains the story, Allison was raised by older sister Shelby because their mom was killed by their Dad. Both gals really give it up on this song and for me, it is the emotional high point of the Show. It is a slow, steamy ballad with some great guitar riffs and steel. It really sends chills up my spine and is my personal favorite song. Yes, Allison, Heaven is good enough for your ill fated mom.
The sisters end their little concert in a concert with "Going Down" which is a great upbeat song that they rock out, great electric lead guitar and vocals. (Also from Miss Fortune)
"Send Down An Angel" is a great emotive slow ballad asking for help to get thru an awkward relationship. Love the musical arrangement on this, mostly acoustical with some great pedal steel and lead guitar. Moorer's vocals are just so rich and emotive.
Sorry, I just told you almost everything. This is one of country's best singers singing at her best with a great backup band. Allison ventures from mainstream Nashville country and always has, that's why you don't hear her on country radio. If you haven't heard Allison, this would be a great introduction, cause she sings better live than in the studio, not taking anything away from her previous three CDs. Also, you would get a great sampling of her music.
copyright 2003
Visit Allison at:

"Unbroken Circle" - The Musical Heritage Of The Carter Family

The Carter Family truly was the tradition that brought us what today we call roots and Americana Music. John Carter Cash has produced a masterpiece that needs little promotion, this is just a great acoustic production. John wrote some great liner notes to go along with the great booklet in this collectors item. Fifteen great songs, fifteen great artists. This is easily one of the best lineups that I have ever seen on a tribute album. Most of the recording was done in the Cash Cabin Studio, on Johnny's property where He recorded til He died.

The only artist that seems out of place here is Sheryl Crow, though she does a great rendition of "No Depression In Heaven", Alison Krauss or Kelly Willis would have been a better fit. George Jones starts out with a kickin rendition of "Worried Man Blues" which really makes one wonder why none of these artists other than Crow get any major radio play.
Listening to this CD makes you wonder why there are not more recordings of this quality, it sounds like a record from the 70's, rich, clear, not a hint of distortion, easy on the ears. Wish I could answer that, but this really has a much warmer sound than your average clinical, over-amped CD.

As I said, this masterpiece needs no promotion, so I 'll just list the rest of the artists and their songs all written by AP Carter.
3. "On The Sea Of Galilee" - Emmy Lou Harris and the Peasall Sisters
4. "Engine One - Forty Three" - Johnny Cash
5. "Never Let The Devil Get The Upper Hand Of You" - Marty Stuart And The Superlatives
6. "Little Moses" - Janette and Joe Carter
7. "Black Jack David" - Norman and Nancy Blake with Tim Obrien
8. "Bear Creek Blues" - John Prine - this really cooks
9. "You Are My Flower" - Willie Nelson - just Willie and his guitar
10. "Single Girl - Married Girl" - Shawn Colvin with Earl and Randy Scruggs
11. "Will My Mother Know Me There?" - The Whites with Ricky Skaggs
12. "The Winding Stream" - Roseanne Cash - the acoustic texture of guitar and auto harp on this song is nothing less than audiophile
13. "Rambling Boy" - Del Coury Band
14. "Hold Fast To The Right" - June Carter Cash
15. "Gold Watch And Chain" - Nitty Gritty Dirt Band with Kris Kristofferson - this track is really special

In closing, I give thanks to all involved with this great project, John Carter Cash, the good folk at Dualtone Records. You can preorder a copy at Dualtones' website, it is slated for release in mid August.

"Brand New Strings" - Ricky Skaggs

Ricky Skaggs, torchbearer for bluegrass music, has come out with his first CD with new music in quite some time. Skaggs has appeared on more than 250 recordings. Even has his own label now, "Skaggs Family Records".

Skagg's music on this album sounds as fresh as if it was his first recording. Ten great vocal songs and three instrumentals. Lots of Ricky's songs are Christian songs or talk about Christian subjects, it was refreshing to see on his song by song sheet, him explaining the importance of being a Christian today. "Love Does It Every time" is a beauty of a song about changed lives and answered prayers. He sounds great singing with his wife Sharon of the Whites.

There are are a wealth of great pickers on this album which ranges from mountain bluegrass to a bit more modern sounding newgrass. Sometimes his vocals are country sounding then sometimes more on the high lonesome side.
"Why Did I Wait So Long?" is a very inspirational gospel bluegrass song with some great harmonies and very strong vocals. It's a true story based on Lester Flatt's conversion to Christianity from a wheelchair and also how he demanded to be baptized in his wheelchair.

Skagg's voice is very pure, easy on the ears, yet emotive and honest. This recording is all acoustic, no drums, very little percussion, yet a very full sound, instrument tones are very realistic, not much post production needed.

This reviewers favorite is "Enjoy The Ride", a Christian song about forgiving yourself as the Lord as forgiven you. An aural treat for your ears and soul. This song really has radio potential. The song emphasizes the need to take one day at a time.
The title track "Brand New Strings" is a guitar pickers dream, great jammin' with all instruments. Great high lonesome harmonies. Story song about a guitar player who used to always play the blues then he switched to bluegrass, hence the lyrics "Johnny's got some brand new strings." Ironically there is a guitar player on this track named Johnny Hyland that Ricky was kinda looking for a song to highlight his talent , well it sure works on all cylinders.

There is an unknown quality about this CD that makes it one of the best CDs that I have heard all year. It is just a great simple emotive recording without all of the special effects that moves you in a special way. The instrumentals are all very good, each having it's own personality. I've highlighted the Christian songs, there are plenty of just great story songs and bluegrass songs that are very good.
Visit Ricky at:

"One Step Ahead" - Rhonda Vincent

"One Step Ahead" is Rhonda Vincent's new album on Rounder Records which will be released on April 29,03.It is her 1st new release since "The Storm Still Rages" which was released two years ago, another album that I reviewed.
Rhonda and her backers have pulled out all the stops on this effort to deliver a very high quality CD, in many ways, time, studios and I'm sure in costs too. The production is a bit different on this new album, making it sound a bit more modern, perhaps a tince closer to an Alison Krauss type recording. The bass is definitely more out front in the mix, giving it more of a rhythmic beat in the sound. There is also a lot more time and tweaking done in the mastering process which is done by one of Nashville's best. The final product is a very highly polished, richly textured sound which shimmers. Also, there are many musicians involved, a different line up on almost each song. I guess one of the things that I like about this recording the most is the excellent acoustic guitar picking and the variety of pickers. Next, I'm going to give you a line up of Rhonda's back up help which will include most everybody involved in making this masterpiece.
First, I'll start off with the musician core. Fiddlers-Stuart Duncan, Ronnie Stewart, Luke Bulla, Molly Cherryholmes and Aubrey Haynie. Banjo pickers-Ronnie Stewart, Cody Kilby and Tom Adams. Acoustic guitars-Bryan Sutton, Aubrey Haynie, Cody Kilby and Darrin Vincent. Mandolin pickers-Aubrey Haynie, Cody Kilby, Rhonda Vincent and Sam Bush. Acoustic Bass-Darrin Vincent plays all tracks except one which was played by David Smith. Pedalbro-Mike Johnson and finally Wallet Box-Aaron Minick. Next I'm going to give the basics of the recording process.
The album is produced by Darrin Vincent and Rhonda Vincent. Original tracks recorded at Sound Control in Nashville. Engineer is Bill Vorndick. Additional recording done at Mountainside Audio Labs, Nashville and Watershed Studio, Nashville. Album mixed by Bill Vorndick. The album was mastered by Hank Williams of Master Mix, one of Nashville's best mastering engineers. When I 1st listened to the CD before I got the liner notes, I was thinking that it might have been mastered by Doug Sax, one of the best in the country( Alison Krauss, Kelly Willis). So, you see, lots of time and work were put into this project to give you this excellent sounding CD, approximately 35 minutes running time, but it seems a lot quicker than that. Now to the music.
There are a total of twelve cuts including a new Martha White promo at the end. I'm going to give the lowdown on my 5 favorite songs.
1."Missouri Moon"-by Jennifer Sutton-(my personal favorite) This song reminds me very much of an Alison Krauss ballad especially with the use of the pedalbro on this song, which basically sounds like a dobro. It has a very beautiful moving, haunting melody which Rhonda just sings so beautifully, this song really blows me away. The fiddle sounds like shedding tears.
2."Kentucky Borderline"-Rhonda co-wrote-This is the opener, it is a great upbeat bluegrass song, great vocals, awesome guitar break, real nice fiddle and fiddle break. I must mention too that the background vocalists are awesome on this album, I did not mention their names in the credits that I gave.
3."One Step Ahead Of The Blues"-Rhonda co-wrote-Great bluesy, bluegrass tune, I love the lyrics, upbeat.
4."Caught In The Crossfire"-Rhonda co-wrote-very cerebral bluegrass ballad, song about being from a broken family and the heartaches caused by this, another great guitar break
5."Ridin'The Redline"-Rhonda co-wrote-great upbeat bluegrass, more awesome guitar and mandolin pickin', great banjo break, this is a trucker song.
OK, I can't tell you everything, but also I really enjoyed "Fisher's Of Men", an acappella song reminiscent of "Let's Go Down To The River To Pray" from "Oh, Brother" and "Walkin' My Lord Up Calvary's Hill", another beautiful gospel tune. There is also a neat instrumental with an Irish flair called "Frankie Bell", which I find quite nice.
In closing, I just want to say how much that I enjoyed reviewing this CD and I think that it is a recording that could take Rhonda to a new height of popularity.
Go visit Rhonda at:

"Next Big Thing" - Vince Gill

Vince Gill, like a fine wine, just gets better with time. Vince is still making the same great country music and tear-jerker love songs that he was making ten years ago. Vince produced the album. The album was recorded by Justin Niebank at Ocean Way in Nashville and mastered by Doug Sax. Vince wrote or co-wrote every song (17 songs) on the album. He also plays lead guitar and sings back-up vocals. The sound quality of this recording is as good as anything I've ever heard, just a great production.
Vince starts out the album with the 1st single and title song "Next Big Thing" which is a comical stab at the music industry, where the labels are always looking for the next big thing. The 2nd single "Someday" is a beautiful slow love song about love coming some day.
There's a host of guest backup singers including his wife Amy Grant, Lee Ann Womack, Emmy Lou Harris, Dawn Sears and Kim Keyes. Long time pedal steel player John Hughey plays all of the pedal steel. Stuart Duncan does an awesome job with all of the fiddle work.
This album has a lot of emotional, mellow tunes in that high range that Vince Gill has owned. His vocals sound as good or better than ever.
"Whippoorwill River" is a great acoustic story song with some great acoustic lead guitar by Vince. "The Sun's Gonna Shine On You" is a Vince Gill upbeat country rocker with Vince takin' off on an awesome electric guitar break reminiscent of " One More Last Chance". "Young Man's Town" is a sad song about Nashville and it's infatuation with young artists. Vince sings this with no bitterness. Vince shows much maturity on this song which contains a line that says "sometimes you gotta stand back and watch 'em burn it to the ground, even though you built it, it's a young man's town." "Without You" is a great upbeat shuffle song. "This Old Guitar And Me" (a personal favorite) is an acoustic ballad about a man and his guitar and his travels thru life playing music, a really very touching song.
"These Broken Hearts" is another great sad love song that only Vince could sing and it is produced so beautifully. The Nashville String Machine fills in nicely in the background. "You Ain't Foolin' Nobody" is an acoustic bluegrass song with banjo and fiddle and Vince playing licks on his Fender. His guitar really just cries on this song.
Well, I can't tell you about every song, but he sings about every style of country song on this album that exists including some Irish and Zydeco influences. Out of seventeen songs, there is not a throwaway in the bunch, every song is a quality song. Vince Gill is a class act, that was built to last. He's every bit talented as a lyricist, as a singer and guitar picker. Never heard Vince better.
The sad thing is that most of this album won't receive the airplay it deserves, because it's too country. I think, that out of all Vince has recorded, this is his masterpiece.

Go visit Vince at:

Thursday, August 18, 2005

"Weather and Water" - The Greencards - A Review

The Greencards are incredible. This recording is incredible. All songs are written by members of this Aussie and Brit group but one song by Patty Griffin.
They must be very self conscious, because there are no good pics of them on the CD artwork, just one pic of the three of them shot from above, that's it. The group is Carol Young (Aussie), Kym Warner (Aussie) and Eamon Mclaughlin (Brit).
The sound quality is incredible, recorded by Nashville's best acoustic engineer, Gary Paczosa and mastered by the industry's best Doug Sax and Robert Hadley of The Mastering Lab in LA. (They use all tube analog home made equipment for mastering.) Bryan Sutton is an integral part of this recording with his incredible guitar playing. Pat Flynn and Jedd Hughes are also guest musicians.
Eamon plays viola and sings, Kym plays mandolin and sings and Carol plays bass and sings. The final product is an incredible warm, easy on the ears audiophile acoustic/bluegrass recording. Some incredible harmonies.
I can't help but compare this group to early Nickel Creek when Alison Krauss produced them. But The Greencards do have a signature sound of their own. Bryan Sutton is at the top of his game. Kym and Carol share most of the lead singing, but Eamon sings lead vocal on one song.
"Martie's Kitchen" (Kym) is an upbeat killer bluegrass number that flies. Two great guitar solos, one by Bryan Sutton and one by Pat Flynn. Kym (a guy to dispel all guesses) plays killer hot mandolin, great fiddle by Eamon.
"What You Are" (Griffin) is a slow ballad, Carol sings and plays bass on. Carol has a very sweet emotive voice. Bryan's guitar tones are so sweet. No backup vocals. Kym plays some real inspired mandolin, very melancholy mood here.
"Don't Want Forever" (Carol) is an incredible mid tempo song. Great mandolin and fiddle. Eamon takes a great fiddle break. Nice Lyrics.
"Ballad of Kitty Brown" (Eamon) Great Irish style ballad with lots of great music going on. Eamon plays some wicked fiddle. Great song.
The last track on the disc is "The House On Vine Street" , an incredibly beautiful acoustic instrumental. Only Kym on mandolin, Eamon on viola and Bryan on guitar.
The sound on this disc is aural excellence. I would be hard pressed to think of a better acoustic recording. By the way, this is their second disc, they have another CD available on their website. This is their first CD on Dualtone Records.
The Greencards are a group that are described easily in one word "Refreshing". Right now they are opening for Bob Dylan on tour. I have really listened to this CD a lot and haven't tired of it.
Think you get the Drift, visit them at or
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