Sunday, December 29, 2013

Monday, November 04, 2013

"The Roys" - Play the Grand Old Opry for the First time

Nashville, TN (November 4, 2013) - Award-winning Bluegrass siblings THE ROYS marked another milestone in their career with their Grand Ole Opry debut last Friday night on the stage of Nashville's world-famous Ryman Auditorium. Introduced by Grammy-winning Opry legend Jeannie Seely and backed by the renowned Opry band, THE ROYS brought down the house with "You Can Count on My Love" and their version of Merle Haggard's "Ramblin' Fever," both tracks from their latest album GYPSY RUNAWAY TRAIN.

"There are no words to describe what we're feeling right now, so we thank y'all for sharing in our dream come true," vocalist/guitarist Elaine Roy told the Ryman audience. "I just want to say that dreams do come true, so never give up. God always opens the doors. You will never know how incredibly awesome this is."

Saturday, October 26, 2013

"Grascals Live at Sellersville Theatre" - Oct. 24,2013 - A Review

Live at

A friend and I really enjoyed the Grascals tonight at Sellersville Theatre in Sellersville,Pa. We got lost on the way up, but there was an opening act, so we got there right on time. I have been trying to catch them for the last 3 years, but things always came up, not tonight. They put on a delightful show tonight doing some numbers I had not heard before. The crowd was excited and enjoyed the show. Looks like there was a new fiddle player in the fold, his nickname is Redbone. Don't ask me. He did a fine job on his third weekend with the band.
They started out the show with "Mystery Train" on all cylinders. They had some news about a new CD in the works. Kristen sounded great on banjo, she is more fun live than on CD, that young lady can really play. They played a combination of their own songs from their last few CDs and some bluegrass covers. There was a real poignant moment when Jamie was singing "Road to Surrender", from their last CD. He got thru the first verse , and he just lost it, froze up on the stage , He walked off for a second and came back and finished the song, it was a real moving moment, if you know that song , the crowd was yelling out encouragement. It was a real special moment. They really put on a great performance. They finished the show with "Up this Hill and Down ", It was a real stellar performance!!

Friday, October 18, 2013

"Snowed In" - Mindy Smith - A Review

Snowed In is a five song EP, that Smith is releasing at the end of this month. This will be ten years since Mindy began her journey as a singer- songwriter almost exactly ten years ago, she already was a songwriter for a company in Nashville. She has released four full CDs during that time from the emotional laden "One Moment More" in 04 to "Long Island Shores" in 06, to her first Christmas Album "My Holiday" in 07 and the more pop sounding "Stupid Love" in 09 ,all on Vanguard Records. During this time, she has sold one half million CDs on her CDs from Vanguard. Not too bad at all for an independent artist.

This EP is on Giantleap/tvx records. This recording has two original songs and three traditional Holiday songs which almost has a sacred sound to them. Smith has vocals that original, fresh as a mountain stream, and she writes some interesting melodies with some sweet hooks and beautiful lyrics which she has a reputation for.

The First original song is "Tomorrow Is Christmas Day", which is a sweet mid-tempo Christmas ballad, the melody just stays with you once you have heard it a couple of times. Then she sings a stunning version of "What Child Is This". Her voice sounds like it has improved over the years. The music for this disc contains the same Nashville studio guys, that helped her on the first Christmas CD.

Her other original song "Snowed In" is my favorite about the Christmas she Dreams of is just being snowed in with her favorite person, a very emotional, fun tune, that has a great melody. It also has some nice acoustic guitar and piano.

Then she goes into a very sweet version of "Silent Night", sparse instruments, heavenly voice. She ends with a great version of "Auld Lang Syne". She is reunited with producer Steve Buckingham on this disc. Smith comments on the season, "In Truth, we are all searching for ONE very powerful gift." This ranks up there with some of the best stuff she has ever done. Check out where you can get a limited edition of the CD at her website.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

"Flying" - Darin and Brooke Aldridge - Review

Darin and Brooke Aldridge have put out a CD in my opinion that is refreshing. To quote Jim Lauderdale , he says "Darin and Brooke bring tradition to today and today to tradition". This couple sings so well together, their harmonies are just uncanny. I call this CD a mood changer, I like to listen to it with breakfast, they use different songwriters including their own member Becky Buller.

I'm listening to a song I love called "Trying To Make Clocks Slow Down", by Bill Whyte just a sample of the many great songs on this expertly crafted CD.

Brooke sings the lead on this , the instruments are placed expertly in the mix. There is a lot of pettiness about some things in bluegrass, like this CD has a quiet drum kit in the background of the music. So if that is going to ruin it for you, get a Bill Monroe CD. I can like both. This is just one of those albums that does not have one bad song on it, and it is recorded in a studio in North Carolina, Crossroads Studio, by sound master Van Atkins, who recorded, mixed and mastered it all by himself. I wouldn't recommend this myself, I usually think that another person should master a CD, for one reason to get a fresh set of ears on the recording, but Atkins gets a pass on this from me, He recorded "Papertown" by Balsam Range which spent an incredible amount of time at the top of the Billboard Bluegrass Chart and won CD of the Year for the IBMA. It was a masterpiece similar to this. Brooke and Darin produced this CD.

Jim Lauderdale wrote the liner notes for this CD, there is another statement that he made in which I agree, "I can't really do justice in trying to describe the essence of this record in words; you just have to hear it to know what I mean. " I have had this CD for about a month and it is still as fresh now as when I first heard it. I really think that it is going to do well.

I have to mention a couple of other songs in closing. The first song that I need to mention is their jaw dropping version of "Outbound Plane", by Nanci Griffith, which honestly is the hook that got me that got me listening to the CD, and when I listen to a CD, I like to listen to the whole CD, and there just is not a bad song on here. They do "Outbound Plane" almost exactly like Nanci Griffith originally did it, but with more of a bluegrass sound. The other song which gets extra mention is "Love Does" by Jamie Johnson, which is done as a duet, with some sweet harmonies.

No studio musicians used, it is recorded with their road band. Darin Aldridge plays guitar, mandolin and Bouzouki. Becky Buller on harmony vocals and fiddle. Collin Willis plays a very tasty sounding Dobro, Dwayne Anderson on bass, Tony Creasman on percussion and Leah Bowen on Harmony vocals. Check This Out.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Ricky Skaggs "Kentucky Traveler" - Book Review

Ricky Skaggs is one of the few iconic figures left in bluegrass music today. Earl Scruggs, Doc Watson, and a lot of the founders and keepers of the sound out of the hills of Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina during the 50s and 60s. Ricky's Dad was a guitar player and wanted Ricky to play mandolin. He picked up a Gibson mandolin for Ricky at age 5. At 6 1/2 Ricky got to play mandolin for Bill Monroe. At the age of 7, Ricky got to play in the Skaggs Family Band. His dad had a brother named Okel who passed away. So his Dad primed him to take Okels Place in the Band. Ricky got the chance to play on television with the Foggy Mountain Boys, Earl Scruggs and Lester Flatt. A few months later he played with the Stanley Brothers.

So was the life of Ricky Skaggs who wrote this book with the help of writer, Eddie Dean, who was a ghostwriter. Reading about Skaggs is reading also bluegrass history and country music history, because for awhile, Skaggs took a place playing country music. Dean does a good job of getting across what Skaggs wanted in this book. Skaggs lived at a time when it was ripe to be a bluegrass musician, or a country musician.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

"Make Each Moment Last" - Ryan Broshear - single review

Ryan Broshear is someone that I have never heard of. I received a CD single, I guess of his first CD, or second, I don't know. He has a pretty good voice and I do like the lyrics to this, I'm not sure who wrote the song but it contains some lyrics anyone can relate to. Very good recording, maybe a bit sparse if you are aiming for a radio hit. The only thing that makes it country is the excellent pedal steel player. But at least you have something to distinguish it as country. I think I would rather have it like this, than over produced like so many

top forty country songs today. I like one line about lightning bugs in a mason jar. That brings back some childhood memories from when I was growing up in different parts of Tennessee. That's what you want to accomplish, something to hook the listener into the song. No backup vocals, I think that would make the song nicer. No chickenpickin, but some nice organ spots. Broshear shows real good control of his vocals. Looks like you can download some stuff for free on his site or check out his neat store which has his full CD.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

May 77 - Grateful Dead - Box Set

This is the first time, that I ever had the privilege to review a full Grateful Dead Box Set, very special, since it is one of my favorite years of the Dead,1977. This set is done up very luxuriously, both the music and the Box itself, music is two track recording done by Dead recording engineer, Betty Cantor, she recorded it on a stereo reel to reel tape machine. The music was then mastered by Jeff Norman.

There are five shows here, May 11, St Paul, Minn. May 12 and 13 at Chicago Illinois, then May 15 at St Louis ,Mo. then finally at Tusc, Alabama on May 17 at University of Alabama Basketball Gym, which is a bit unusual, since they had never done a show in Alabama, but it is a very good show, and the football team was helping the sound crew set up their sound system in the gym.

All of the music is mastered down to HDCD, which really sounds good , especially if your CD player decodes HDCD. Still, the sound quality is excellent throughout the recordings. By the Way ,there are still around 2500 box sets out of the original 15,000 sets left. The recording quality is really especially good in these concerts, Rhino Records puts out a good product. I skipped around the first time thru these concerts, I'm listening to the last show recorded at the University of Alabama now, really a creative show. They have cut back on gear since the last huge tour in 74 "the Wall of Sound" tour. The quality is just as good or better, they learned from that that tour, you do not need all of that gear. The stereo spread and eq are perfect on most shows, this is one of the most audiophile recordings, that the Grateful Dead have ever put out. They so some of the same songs every show, but there is a good mix of songs. As the band goes on thru the tour, they are tight as ever, but you really pick up a sense of joy from their performance. They really had picked up a lot of discipline working with Keith Olsen on their last Album "Terrapin Station". I think the icing on the cake on this recording was the incredible singing of Donna Godchaux on this tour. She is right on her game.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

"Gypsy Runaway Train" - The Roys - A Review

The Roy's had a brilliant idea for their third CD on Rural Rhythm Records. They decided to pick several cover songs that they had been playing for several years with their road band, they had had fans ask them where they can find some of the songs on CD that they had been playing in shows for years. So they decide on this CD, they would take their road band and record the cover songs with them, and their new original material they would continue to let Andy Leftwich and members of Kentucky Thunder, (Ricky Skagg's Band) play the music for the their own songs. This makes for more work ,but it gives the Roy's fans an opportunity to hear what the Roys sound like with their road band.

The Roys road band has Elaine on guitar, Lee on mandolin. On bass, they have Royal Masat, their fiddle player is Clint White and they have an excellent banjo picker in Matthew Downing who can do some great Scrugg's like banjo playing. The songs recorded with their own band have a more intimate sparse sound with the vocals being the highlights. Lee is a very good mandolin player, and so also Clint White is a good Fiddler. My favorite cover songs they do are "Blue Moon of Kentucky" (Monroe), "He Took your Place" (Flatt and Scruggs) and "What Gives You The Right" (Adam Steffey).

For their original songs, it is basically the same musicians from Kentucky Thunder with Andy Leftwich producing this part with the Roy's. Let me say something about Andy Leftwich, He is Ricky Skaggs' fiddle player and this guy is dynamite, I saw him recently with Ricky Skaggs at Sellersville Theater up here in Pa., and I did not expect the show I got from that group, every player is excellent,and they just nail everything they do, I see why a lot of them do so much studio work. I talked to Andy briefly after their two hour show, and He is a very brilliant young man with a long future ahead of him. He really lit up when I brought up the Roys. I also met Justin Moses who plays banjo on the Roys original songs. He is another great banjo player from Skaggs' band. Cody Kilby plays guitar on the Roys original songs. Then you have Mark Fain on bass and Randy Kohrs playing some great Dobro. My favorite song on the CD is Elaine's heartbreak song about her divorce "Half Of Me", it is so powerful, I'm glad I got to hear her say a few words about it on a video today. Another favorite is the very upbeat "Gypsy Runaway Train", the title track of the CD. It is a song for the fans. Another song I like a lot is "Workin' On It" Their harmonies are great on this one. I love the lyrics too. The artwork on the Cd is excellent, simple, but beautiful.

Monday, May 13, 2013

"Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder" - Live At Sellersville Theatre, 5/11/13 - A Review

Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder put on a show to remember before a packed house at the Sellersville Theatre, Saturday night, They played material from all over the place, including their most recent CD. The Crowd was definitely into the show, Skaggs is a real icon in the Bluegrass scene. But, I like how he has experimented with different styles over the years, like the CD that He did with Bruce Hornsby years ago, unlikely ,yet a great listen. He mixed some slow ballads with a lot of uptempo pickers, with the help of Andy Leftwich on fiddle, Cody Kilby on lead guitar, and Justin Moses on banjo. His band is filled with sessions musicians, plus an excellent bassist in Scott Mulvahill, who was playing all over the place, plus you could hear his upright bass in the mix. He also had a couple of excellent backup singers who also played rhythm guitar in Paul Brewster and Eddie Faris.

This band plays like a well oiled machine, they are tight, the mix is just right and the sound is lush, Skaggs uses studio quality condenser mikes for his mandolin and guitar, Leftwich's fiddle has a real musical tone, not scratchy, Moses gets great tone from his banjo, mandolin and dobro using the same type mike as Ricky, and Mulvahill gets a nice punchy tone from his standup bass.

They played a lot of songs from their latest CD, "Music To My Ears", which came out at the end of last year, a really well done CD with excellent material. Most of the musicians in the band had done solo CDs. Ricky let them do a song from their new material, which usually was done with the help of the rest of the band. Then they also did some material from Skaggs earlier albums ,a couple from "Mosaic". The show lasted a little over 2 hours with a brief intermission. This bluegrass band puts on a show which will leave you with a song in your heart and a smile on your face.

Monday, April 29, 2013

" Gypsy Runaway Train" - The Roys - Single Review

The Roys new single from their upcoming CD is the title track "Gypsy Runaway Train". This is actually a song about their fans and their relationship with them. It is an upbeat song with Lee singing the lead vocals and Elaine wrapping her wonderful harmonies around Lee's vocals. There is some excellent pickin' by members of Ricky Skaggs Kentucky Thunder, who play on about half of the songs on the new CD, Cody Kilby plays some lightning fast guitar runs, Randy Kohrs plays some hot Dobro and there is Mark Fain on bass, plus Andy Leftwich,who is a great fiddle player. There will be some interesting twists on the new CD, which I think will be the best CD yet by the Roys.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

"Captains And Cowboys" - Mike Aiken - A Review

This Americana/acoustic sounding CD has some real nice material on it that will put a song in your heart. Most material is written by Aiken himself or with help. This CD is the first CD that Aiken has put some real top professional people in the help and it is an excellent sounding CD. This recording was two years in the making, but is scheduled for release on April 22,2013. It is produced by Aiken, Dan Baird, and Ben Strand. The sound ranges from country, roots and a bit of island sound.

It is a twelve song CD recorded at Sound Emporium Studio in Nashville, one of the best. Mastered at Yes Master in Nashville, a company with a great reputation that I have heard many fine CDs mastered by them. This recording has a very warm mix where everything is heard at a good volume. Vocals were recorded at Hot factory six and recording was mixed at Hot Factory six.

Aiken sings lead vocals, plays guitars, and slide guitar. Mike Grando plays drums. Michael Webb plays bass. Dan Baird plays electric guitar, and one of the best in the industry Dan Dugmore plays pedal steel.

I really do not think there is a bad song on this CD. My favorites are the melodic, catchy "Virginia", the workingman's song , "Coal Train" , One of Mike's best for me is the slow "Your Memory Wins", written with the help of Austin Cunningham.

I like "Save The Whales" upbeat, country song written by Joe Mcdonald. Tammy Rodgers plays some excellent fiddle here. "Summertime Song" has some real good country blues guitar. Good background vocals on this upbeat song. Mike also plays some great slide guitar on this song. This might be the best song on the CD. "Captains and Cowboys" is another upbeat song with a real good vibe going. This has been a real joy for me. Enjoy!!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Best Grateful Dead Tribute Band

There is a band that plays music as sweet as the Dead ever did. The same songs,having Bob Weir and Phil Lesh as members truly helps, they were afraid to get a guitarist that sounded anything like Garcia in the Band they called the Dead, they had Warren Haynes, but it just didn't sound quite right, but with John Kadlecik from DSO in between Bobby and Phil, things are as good or better than ever ,so the band "Furthur" has taken the concept of the Dead Furthur down the Road. There are times when this band makes you smile like in times past, they are tighter than ever, the communication between players is eery, after I watched their 4 night run at Sweetwater Music Hall in Marin County, I was blown away , especially at the playing of Kadlecik who's guitar playing is so melodic, with a tone and phrasings very similar to his mentor Garcia. On 1/18/13 at Sweetwater Music Hall they start out with "Jack Straw" done to perfection, with ace keyboard player Jeff Chimenti playing some honky tonk piano on his keyboard. They also have a male and female back up vocal unit that makes the harmonies as good as ever. They do songs that the Dead themselves never did while on the road. The second song on the eighteenth, Kadlecik sang "Reuben and Cherise" from Garcia's favorite solo album "Cats Down Under The Stars" which then goes into "Me and My Uncle" and then "Big River", where Kadlecik plays an incredible solo, sounding like a pedal steel at times. Than they do "Pride Of Cucamonga" where Kadlecik does some more mastery. Jeff Chimenti is a super talented keyboard player as Joe Russo is also a great drummer, both with a heavy jazz background. Kadlecik counts off "Built to Last" and they go into a version that sounds very much like the original Grateful Dead. Just an update on what this growing group has been up to, and it looks like a pretty full year of touring for them. Enjoy!!!

Monday, March 11, 2013

This is one of the top CDs that I have heard this year. Before this couple got married, they both had successful solo careers and still do. This is the first CD that they have done together and I think they sound very well singing together, though I'll take Willis singing by herself anyday. I like Bruce's brother Charlie better than Bruce, just a stylistic, talent thing. Bruce is very talented himself. This is produced by Brad Jones and it is a very well done CD with a Texas Country sound. Only problem I have with recording is that it is way too loud, don't know if it was mastered too loud or recorded too loud originally, but there is no Distortion, unless you turned it up real loud which I did not try. A combination of songs written by different writers. It is a real good recording though ,mastered by Yes Master, who are a very well known outfit. Robison and Willis sing very well together. It is a collection of catchy songs which work well. As for the material, I like just about every song on the disc. Favorites are "Border Radio" by Dave Alvin, "We're All the Way" by Don Williams. "Long Way Home" by Hayes Carl has Kelly singing lead which is a delight. Nice mid-tempo ballad in a sad mood, but it is a delight. "9,999,999 Tears" by Razzy Bailey is another great song with Willis singing lead, her vocals are so beautiful. Eamon Mclaughlin (former Greencard) plays cello,mando and fiddle on most songs. Bruce Robison has a good voice, but I like the songs Kelly sings better, They do sing very well together. The artwork for the CD is very creative, a bit offbeat, but fun. When you open up the Cardboard case it looks like a pinball game. Interesting booklet with lyrics. Bruce Robison wrote about half the songs on the thirteen song disc. He is a good songwriter. As a solo artist, I like his brother Charles Robison better. My favorite song on the whole disc is a slow heartbreak song called "Waterfall" sang by Kelly.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

"Miners' Rebellion" - The Miners - A Review

This group is a Philly Band with a real bend towards the country rock sound and nothing fancy, just original songs by their leader Keith Marlowe. Marlowe seems to have his hand into a little bit of everything. This six song EP is called Miners Rebellion which is the first track on the CD. Marlowe recorded this album in his basement using an eight track half inch tape reel to reel recorder. The tone is solid without a lot of effects, but the ones he used were quality. Track six has some great guitar work on it. Marlowe is responsible for all of the great guitar work on the six songs, some has more emphasis like on a fiddle or pedal steel, He has two pedal steel players on the six songs. We do not have a glut of pedal steel players here in Philly, He said He basically knows all of them, I'm sure He is right. We just do not have the country bands like we used to, so for me to stumble upon Keith was refreshing.A few years ago ,there was a great band called the Patsy Foster Band, that gal was awesome, she could sing. But the club scene and coffee house scene has changed a bit since the nineties. Marlowes' country lyrics are very interesting, they can take you to another place in history,not a bunch of pop songs with pedal steel (if any ), like a lot of modern country music. There is a very good fiddle player on track two (Joe Kille), a nice ballad. The pedal steel players really add a nice part on this somewhat sparse recording. They each add a different strength in their playing. Norton's Pond is probably my favorite song, which just has a special feel to it. Plus it also has a great melody and some really nice vocal work. My other favorite song is Cold Steel, which is a masterpiece in my opinion,another song with a real good melody plus great vocals and three guitar parts. This EP has the feel of the great alt/country groups of the last three decades,The Flying Burrito Brothers, Gram Parsons,there is one song that reminds me of Charlie Robison. Their gigging bass player lived way too far away to make it up on this side of Philly, so Scott Donnini was replaced by former bass player Jeff Smith on a couple of tracks and Keith played bass on the other tracks. Andy Shahan played drums and did backing vocals,David Thornburgh played pedal steel on four tracks and is their regular steel player. Jim Callan played pedal steel on two tracks. Matt Mcguire did backing vocals on two tracks. Joe Kille played fiddle on one track. Last, but far from least, on lead vocals Keith Marlowe,electric and acoustic guitars Keith Marlowe,on backing vocals ,Keith Marlowe,and finally on bass, tracks 1- 4 Keith Marlowe. Produced and recorded at Match-Up Zone Studio, (his Basement) Keith Marlowe, Mixed by Keith Marlowe and Joel Metzler at MilkBoy The Studio, Philadelphia,Pa. Mastered by Tommy Joyner at Milkboy The Studio, Phila, Pa. This album has had a real positive effect on just about everyone that has heard it, Please go check out The Miners website where you can listen to the whole CD and Buy it. I have enjoyed this review, I got to meet Keith, He delivered the CD so I could review it, He lives about ten minutes away ,so I hope to hear a show this year.
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