Monday, October 27, 2014

Charlie Daniels - Live At Keswick Theatre - A Review

 The Charlie Daniels Band pulled into Glenside and were loaded for bear. I have not seen Charlie since 1981 at the Mann Music Center. There was a local band that opened up for them, The crowd were not really  getting into them, I had never heard of them, but the crowd were there to see the CDB.

  People that had a meet and greet with Charlie did that during the first act's
set. Charlie did his meet and greets in his bus which was neat. Mr. Daniels has always been an outspoken man about his beliefs in Christianity, and his political ideas.  In my short time with him, I was really impressed with him, He is a very kind and sincere man.

   By the time everyone got back inside, The opening act was finished and they were setting up for the CDB which did not take long, and they had brought more than the average rock group to the Keswick, which has it's own PA system. They added a stack of speakers which went almost to the ceiling of the Theatre. They started out loud, I really did not expect him to still be playing full volume at his age, but the band was on full tilt rock, it took a couple of songs to get the sound dialed in. After the sound was right, the band really sounded good. They did the "Wooley Swamp", it sounded just like the record, Charlie's voice sounds just as strong and clear as it did thirty five years ago. His guitar playing sounded better, if anything than before.

  I was unfamiliar with a lot of his new material, as I was really into him in the seventies. He did sing "Long Haired Country Boy", which got the place jumping. He brought the house down with a magnificent version of "How Great Thou Art", starting out with just himself and an acoustic guitar, bringing in the whole band by the end. It was just so beautiful and done so full of meaning, and reverently. The CDB sounds just as good or better than ever.


Monday, October 20, 2014

"Pull Your Savior In" - The Larry Stephenson Band - a review

Well, first off, this band is celebrating their 25th anniversary with this bluegrass/gospel CD. This recording majors on their vocals. Larry Stephenson sings lead, harmony and plays mandolin. Colby Laney sings lead and harmony vocals and plays guitar. Kenny Ingram sings  harmony vocals, plays banjo and some lead guitar on one song. Danny Stewart sings bass vocal on a song and plays acoustic bass.

   Jimmy Fortune, guest artist sings tenor vocal on a song. Aubrey Haynie plays fiddle. David Parmley and Dale Perry sing harmony vocals. Kristen Scott Benson played her first stint on banjo with this group at age 19. She played another stint with them a few years later. This album was produced by Ben Surrat and Larry Stephenson. 

   This is a very well produced CD. The first song is an accapello version of "Amazing Grace."  This is a song that everyone likes, but for some reason, it just does not move me. However, the next two songs "Pull Your Saviour In" and "Come To Jesus Moment" are two sensational gospel songs. I mean, the lyrics, the singing are all great. They kind of just stick with you. There is a good version of the "Great Speckled Bird". Other traditional songs done well are "How Great Thou Are" and "Let the Lower Lights Be Burning". Overall, it is a refreshing gospel album, that does a great balance of gospel and bluegrass. They sound like they are a really good bluegrass group.  This album comes out this week on Oct. 21. You can get a copy at their website or at Amazon.


Saturday, September 13, 2014

"The View" - The Roys - A Review

 On Sept. 2,2014, The Roys released their new bluegrass CD, "The View". The beautiful cover art of this CD will definitely catch your eye showing Lee and his sister Elaine on the porch of a beautiful cabin, tree covered view behind them.

  They have been making successful bluegrass CDs since 2011, starting with "Lonesome Whistle". They have a faithful following of fans to their melodic style of bluegrass with Christian songs mixed in.

  On this CD ,they did some things differently, Lee did all of the recording himself and they used the instruments played by their own band members, instead of studio musicians.  Also, every song is written by them, sometimes with the help of others. It came out real well, the playing of his own road band is surprisingly good, as Lee is a well talented mandolin player.

  There are a total of eleven tracks and the final track is with the help of Doyle Lawson about Bill Monroe, called "The Mandolin Man".

  Daniel Patrick on banjo and dobro is surprisingly good. On "Northern Skies",an instrumental, Lee plays some exciting mandolin parts, which have an original sound. He gets some beautiful tone out out of his mandolins. Clint White plays very good fiddle. Erik Alvar does a very good job with his bass parts.

  The CD has a good variety of mellow, original bluegrass songs. My favorites are "Sometimes", "Live The Life You Love", an upbeat song, Really like "The View", a real nice slow ballad by Elaine. It is slow and wistful. A really nice ballad featuring Elaine. "No More Tears Left To Cry" is a really well crafted song with some great dobro by Daniel.

   Overall, The View is one of the best CDs, put out by the Roys.


Sunday, July 06, 2014

"Flatt Lonesome Too" - Flatt Lonesome -A Review

 Flatt Lonesome had a great debut CD. It is very hard to come out with a good follow up to a great CD like theirs In fact, the second CD is always a hard item for a group to put out.

  Well, Too does not disappoint, they sound even tighter with all new material. Their Dobro player Mike really sounds great, coming out with some real melodious playing. Both Buddy's vocals and guitar playing have improved. This group plays with real great dynamics, not going full tilt all of the time, but doing some real nice playing with their instruments. Buddy has a couple of real nice guitar solos on this CD. Kelsi and Charli's vocals sound even better than before. I really like their harmony's on "I Can't Be Bothered Any More". Kelsi sounds great on the slow ballad "Make It Through The Day".

  "He Still Hears" is a very good gospel song that is full of emotion. Their harmonies are so moving and intricate. Another great gospel song with great instrumental breaks is "I'm Ready Now". Mike tears it up on the Dobro and Buddy plays a hot guitar break. A song with a very catchy melody and great vocals is "I Thought You Were Someone I Knew", an upbeat heart break bluegrass ballad.

  There is like a wow factor to this CD, really have not figured it out yet, whether it is the production or that sibling thing with Buddy, Kelsi and Charli. Maybe it is the excellent playing on the instruments. These are not studio musicians, these are the same young folk in the group, no one else. By the way ,you can really hear the Bass well on this CD and Dominic really plays some solid bass for the foundation. A lot of bluegrass groups add drums and percussion to their CDs. You don't need that, maybe that is why this is so special. This year it really looks like they are building some great momentum and a larger fan base on the long festival trek. That is hard work, These Bluegrass musicians are hard workers, plus it is hot out there in the afternoon when they do their first set. I can't see why this CD would not win some kind of IBMA award or even a grammy, it is excellent. Plus, these are all new songs, no cover songs, just new and original material. Paul Harrigill wrote two songs and helped out with another song. Sorry, I forgot to mention his excellent banjo pickin, He can play. Kelsi wrote a song and helped out with another one. Twelve very good songs, no filler material. I never skip anything, just put it on and play it through, love to listen to it in my car. 

  These young folk put out a great example, They are professing Christians as are a lot of Bluegrass musicians. They dress very well at their shows, I wish them all the best. Last, but not least, the artwork and pictures on the on the CD Cover are done very well. Hope, that I get to see them someday, I live just a little too far off of the circuit. The only place around here that showcases Bluegrass is Sellersville Theatre where I have seen Mountain Heart, Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder and The Grascals, all shows that I loved. I will say, don't miss Ricky Skaggs, He has an awesome band, and still puts on a super show. He packed out the place twice in one day. You can preorder the CD off of their website, at their label or on Amazon.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

"Off The Grid - Doin' It Dylan" - Charlie Daniels Band - A Review

Well, this is different for the Charlie Daniels Band. Some of the
first sessions work on the guitar, that Daniels did when he moved to
Nashville was for Bob Dylan's "Nashville Skyline" album. Charlie was
just supposed to fill in for a day for a guitarist who did not show
up. Dylan wanted Charlie to keep playing, not the guy who didn't show
up. In fact ,Charlie kept playing for him on Dylan's next two albums
done in Nashville. Daniels said that Dylan and him got along and he
was easy to work with. So Charlie thought that He would do a tribute
album for Dylan.

  The sound is refreshing ,acoustic ,bouncy , Daniels vocals sound as
good as ever. For me, I really had always been a fan of Dylan's songs,
but not his versions. Charlie's vocals were mixed loud enough that it
was easy to hear the words and appreciate the meaning of the songs,
Charlie really enunciated the versing well, it showed that He truly
loved the songs, and I really understood the meaning of the songs, for
the first time, plus you can really hear joy in Daniel's singing. The
band is like a folk, bluegrass band, with drums, harmonica, some
mandolin and sweet Dobro. I'm sure that Daniels still misses Taz, the
last member of his original band, who passed away not too long ago.
There is a lot of piano in the mix, in fact , it is one of the
dominant instruments. It is an interesting mix of Dylan songs, Some
upbeat, some serious, a couple sad, really something for everyone to
relate to.

    He starts up with a real upbeat version of "Tangled Up in Blue",
He puts a real interesting fiddle riff in the song to keep it moving.
He does upbeat versions, but serious versions of "Hard Rain Going to
Fall" and "The Times They Are a Changing".

     Daniels said that he learned a lot from playing on Dylan's
recordings that later he learned some things about leading his own
band. Dylan was all about a sense of freedom and letting a musician
play what he wanted to play ,rather than tell him every phrase. Other
songs on the CD are "You are Going to have to serve Somebody", "Just
Like a Woman", and the Manfred Mann Hit,
 "The Mighty Quinn", and I think my favorite is his version of "I
Shall be Released".  Charlie Daniels has become a man who is a hard
worker and a large believer in America and Christianity. And He is not
afraid to say what is on his mind. I honestly was impressed about how
tight his band is on the whole album, and for me, I'll put it on if I
need something to put me in a good mood. See what you think, if this
something you might like.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

"Flatt Lonesome" - Flatt Lonesome - A Review

     These young folk have formed one of the best sounding traditional bluegrass groups around. If you watch the youtube above, you will get an idea of their talent level plus the love they have for their craft. The vocals  are built around 3 sibling and they harmonize so well together. Plus they play their instruments so well. Siblings Kelsi Robertson Harrigill, Charli Robertson and brother Buddy Robertson handle vocals plus Kelsi plays all mandolin, Charli plays fiddle and Buddy plays guitar and is leader of group. He is an excellent guitarist, playing both lead and rhythm. They play a lot of recognizable cover songs on their debut CD.
      Helping the sibling out on the other instruments is Mike Stockton who plays a very good Dobro, and they have Paul Harrigill on banjo who is quite an accomplished player and on upright bass,they have Dominic Illingworth who does a good job of keeping the beat going well. My favorite song on the CD is the popular country/bluegrass "Jackson", which sounds like a live version. Buddy and sister Charli do a great job on vocals. Their vocals are quite remarkable. Gospel song "On The Right Side" is done very well by Kelsi on lead vocals. The last song "Boondocks" is done very well in a trio style by Kelsi, Charli and Buddy. These youngsters are very entertaining, they have lots of youtubes on youtube, and they really sound great live. Some of their vocal arrangements are like the best in bluegrass. I would love to catch them at a festival this year. They have some original songs on the CD too. Kelsi wrote "One Foot in The Grave" and "Just Any Moment". I love their version of "Does My Ring Burn Your Finger" and "Draggin My Heart Around", a couple of songs that are pretty popular. They are fortunate to be a member of Mountain Home Records, which also has the "Grascals" and "Balsam Range". Mountain Home Records is blessed to have one of the best recording engineers around in their studio in the Mountains of North Carolina. And I have yet to hear , Van Atkins do a bad recording. He not only records their CDs , but also does the mastering, which is unusual. Most groups or labels all send their finished record out to a good mastering engineer like Doug Sax or Georgetown Masters in Nashville, Tennessee. Van just switched over from 2 inch analog tape to Pro Tools in the last couple of years. He is simply one of the best in Bluegrass. The artwork on the CD is great too, There is a living room chair on the Cover, with a blackboard which says simply "Flatt Lonesome" on it. This is a group with a huge upside to it. Check them out.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Only Me - Rhonda Vincent - A Review

Rhonda Vincent releases her new 2 CD package "Only Me" on Upper Management Music 1/28/14.

  Rhonda has been singing and picking traditional bluegrass music for quite a while now. The Bluegrass CD has a real rich sound recorded at her own Studio , Adventures Studio by recording engineer, Joey Crawford, who also mixed the CD. Present day Rage is Hunter Berry on fiddle, Brent Burke on resophonic guitar, Mickey Harris on upright bass, with Aaron Macdaris on banjo. Rhonda plays mandolin and Josh Williams plays some real good guitar. Willie Nelson his guitar on title track "Only Me" which is a duet with Rhonda. Darryl Singletary sings a song with Rhonda on the bluegrass CD "We Must Have Been Out Of Our Minds". The instruments sound great on the bluegrass side with Rhonda playing some great mandolin. It's hard to believe that she has been recording since 1967. She still looks gorgeous and her vocals are beautiful. Dolly Parton gives her a compliment on her great bluegrass singing in the credits. Very good song selection which is one with a live sounding vibe.

   Rhonda's last CD was two years ago, a gospel CD "Sunday Morning Singing".  The country CD is equally good, her earlier CDs on Giant Records during the ninetys were country. Her country voice reminds me a bit of Lee Ann Womack. She starts out with a song that she wrote herself called "Teardrops Over You" which is a great slow song. The country record was recorded at the tracking room in Nashville ,featuring Tim Crouch on fiddle, Kevin Grant on upright bass, Carl Jackson on acoustic guitar, Mark Johnson who is incredible on pedal steel . Catherine Marx on piano, James Mitchell on lead guitar, Michael Rojas plays piano on (Drivin' Nails) and Lonnie Wilson on drums.

    The country CD has a great selection of songs by well known writers like Bill Anderson.  It has Rhonda's great country voice with some just dynamite interplay with the musicians, especially Mike Johnson on pedal steel, James Mitchell on electric guitar and Catherine Marx on piano. Recorded again by Joey Crawford with some assist by Jarad Clement. I remember the days when the great Bill Voorndick recorded most of Vincent's music.  This CD has some great artwork with Rhonda on the cover looking great with some nice design ideas, one being that it has this special jewel case for two CDs that really work. I have really enjoyed Vincent's CD. If you like the real deal, Rhonda is it.


Thursday, January 23, 2014

"Pennsylvania Coal" - Irene Kelley - A Review

  Veteran Nashville songwriter Irene Kelley and small town native of Pennsylvania has a new singer-songwriter bluegrass CD coming out in the early part of February, 2014. This is all acoustic music produced by Mark Fain. Kelley has written hits for lots of other artists.

  This CD is a tribute to her coal mining grandfather who was a coalminer in Pennsylvania. This is no ordinary Bluegrass CD, I mean it is loaded with some of the truly best talent on the Nashville music scene today. A sampling of the musicians is Mark Fain on Bass, Bryan Sutton on guitar, banjo and dojo for one track. The music is nothing less than Sparkling, like a cool mountain stream. More musicians include Adam Steffey on mandolin, Stuart Duncan on fiddle, Lynn Williams on Drums and percussion, and Irene Kelley, autoharp.

   Background singers include Dale Ann Bradley, Steve Gulley, Claire Lynch, Trisha Yearwood, Darren Vincent, Carl Jackson, Rhonda Vincent and Chip Davis, just to mention the best.  

   There is really not a bad song on this whole CD , maybe some stick out more, but the selection and vocals make them great. "Sister's Heart" has a neat pattern of banjo playing which helps define the sparsely produced song. "Things We never did" has a traditional vein in it.  "Angels Around Her" with Claire Lynch has some real nice harmonies flowing thru it. Some great fiddle and mandolin too.  "Better With Time" is a slow ballad with Trisha Yearwood singing backup vocals. Bryan Sutton plays some really nice guitar runs on this song. "Garden Of Dreams" is a beautiful ballad with some of Irenes' best vocal work.  Probably the most upbeat song with a catchy melody is the opener "You Don't Run Across My Mind", and vocal help of Darrin Vincent.

  Overall, a very well done project, with excellent arrangements, both vocally and instrumentally. This CD will be released on Feb 11, 2014 on Patio Records.
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