about | contact us | advertising | subscription services

DYLAN McCARTHY

DYLAN McCARTHY
LOST & FOUND

No Label
No Number

This seven-track recording takes us through a range of originals all featuring McCarthy’s fine mandolin playing. With prior experience with classical piano and time spent at Berklee College of Music, we are treated to the new sounds that are modern bluegrass. There are elements of jazz and classical music here, much like that found in the genre called Dawg Music.

The recording is very clean and the playing is highly technical, displaying the advanced prowess of the musicians. Natalie Padilla shines on fiddle on four tracks. Justin Hoffenburg ably plays fiddle on the remainder. Allen Cooke plays some fine resonator guitar on three cuts. Sam Armstrong-Zickefoose plays banjo with a modern touch. His role is more rhythmic on “The Jamestown Turnaround,” kind of a take-off on the early Jazz and Tin Pan Alley music. Then, he shows adept flexibility with the melody on the old two-step time. Padilla whips out some nice swing licks. Guitarist Eric Wiggs show he knows more than progressive bluegrass. Bradley Morse not only keeps things solid with his bass, but can also strut his stuff when the time comes.
“24th Of August” and “Old Bisbee” are standout tracks. On the later track, the banjo sounds like melodic clawhammer. The tune “The Doldrums” languishes and lumbers along, churning, but going nowhere. Like the opening cut, “Mosquito” is another musical onomatopoeia. The songwriting on Lost & Found is up to the high standard of the performances. (www.dylanmaccarthymusic.com)RCB


THE ROE FAMILY SINGERS

THE ROE FAMILY SINGERS
ROLL UP THE RUG!

Bonfire Music Group
BRC5016

The Roe Family Singers are Kim Roe on vocals, autoharp, banjolele, washboard, and spoons and Quillan Roe on vocals, banjo, and archtop guitar. There are nine other folks playing a variety of instruments, including musical saw and kazoo (uncredited). There are two original songs by Quillan Roe: “What Did He Say?” and “Don’t Worry About The Rich Man?” Some of their sources include Bill Monroe (“The Rocky Road Blues”), Hank Williams (“Hey, Good Lookin’”), Jimmy Driftwood (“Tennessee Stud”), Dock Boggs (“Country Blues”), and Neil Young (“Daddy Went Walkin’”). They also do “When The Red, Red Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbing Along,” “My Grandfather’s Clock,” plus traditional songs such as “Sourwood Mountain,” “The Fox,” and “The Ram Of Darby.” The 15 selections give a sense of the wide range of their music.

Both Roes have strong voices and thus the duo has very strong harmony vocals. Their “Rocky Road Blues” has a laid-back tempo, but the vocals have a strong edge. “Sourwood Mountain” is done as a fiddle/clawhammer duet with vocals. “It Takes A Long, Long Train With A Red Caboose” is a rockabilly number, and Kim has the voice for it. These folks sound like they are having a lot of fun, and that should appeal to many listeners. (Bonfire Music, 2514 River Rd., Ste. 105, Piedmont, SC 29673, www.bonfiremusicgroup.com.)SAG


THE COCKMAN FAMILY

THE COCKMAN FAMILY
LETTER FROM HOME

CF RECORDS
BMI-07272

Since forming in 1988, this North Carolina family unit has recorded multiple projects that feature a gospel approach to their original tunes and covers of older lesser-known tunes. The Cockman Family is led by father John Cockman (guitar) with siblings Caroline Cockman Fisher (vocals), John Cockman, Jr. (fiddle), Billy Cockman (banjo, guitar), David Cockman (bass), and Ben Cockman (mandolin, guitar). Billy has won banjo championships in Winfield, Kansas, as well as contests in both North and South Carolina. Ben has won guitar contests also at Winfield and other events in The Carolinas and West Virginia.

Billy and Caroline are both accomplished songwriters with a few of their songs included on this project. Caroline wrote “I’m Not Gonna Fear,” “Healing,” and “Old Camp Meeting.” Billy contributes “He Forgot What He Forgave” and “He Is My Joy.” The trio of Caroline, Billy, and Ben get together on the old Thomas Dorsey tune “Walking Up The King’s Highway.” Older selections include “Life’s Railway To Heaven” from 1880 and “Over In The Gloryland” from 1906. “Sweet By And By” from 1886 is given an instrumental treatment. The family offers tight harmonies and great picking from Billy and Ben. Another good output from this solid family band. (www.cockmanfamily.com)BF


JAKE BLOUNT

JAKE BLOUNT
SPIDER TALES

Free Dirt Records
DIRT-CD-0007

Jake Blount is an award-winning banjo and fiddle player based in Providence, R.I., whose awards include becoming the first black artist to win the annual Appalachian String Band Music Festival in West Virginia. Blount studies and performs the music of black artists of the Southeast, and even upstate New York. He is joined on the project by Tatiana Hargreaves (fiddle), Nick Gareiss (feet), Rachel Eddy (guitar), Haselden Ciaccio (bass), Jeff Claus (bass-uke), and Judy Hyman (fiddle).

On this release, Blount delves heavily in the music of African-American artists and has selected a number of old-time tunes originating from a variety of sources. “Roustabout” is from Dink Roberts of North Carolina and “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” is a look back at Lead Belly’s “In The Pines.” Another North Carolinian is Manco Sneed, the source for “Old-Timey Gray Eagle” and “Done Gone.” New Yorker Judy Hyman was the source for “Beyond This Wall,” and “Boll Weevil” comes from Tommy Jarrell via an unknown black woman. “Brown Skin Baby” comes from Jabe Dillon, and “English Chicken” is from Nashville’s Frazier and Patterson.

Most of the selections feature Blount on banjo and Hargreaves on fiddle. The set closes with a bluesy “Mad Mama’s Blues” collected from Josie Miles of Kansas City. Blount has a delightful voice that fits well with his chosen material. The project is an interesting look into the many sources of black old-time music collected by this serious musical scholar. The title of the CD is a nod to the Akan folklore trickster named Anansi, featured in many West African cultures. (Free Dirt Records, P.O. Box 60015, Washington, DC 20039, www.freedirt.net.)BF


THE WILDMANS

THE WILDMANS

Travianna Records
TR2005100

The Wildmans are a young brother/sister duo from the Roanoke, Va., area. Aila plays fiddle and sings lead while brother Eli plays mandolin and adds harmony. Longtime friends Victor Furtado (banjo) and Sean Newman (bass) round out the group. Guests on the project are Nick Falk (percussion), Nate Leath (fiddle), and Dori Freeman (guitar).

The young band offers a diverse set of selections that includes bluegrass, traditional, and blues, among others. On the traditional side, the group plays “Richmond,” “Garfield’s Blackberry Blossom,” and the standard “Sitting On Top Of The World” which is given a slow and bluesy pace. Furtado offers an interesting medley of “Monster Ride”/“Rock Of Ages,” and guest Dori Freeman penned “Rid My Mind.” The group opens up the set with a nice cover of Bob Dylan’s “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go.” Other cuts include “Lost Man In A Foreign Country” and “Midnight In Harlem.” The project finishes up with an instrumental from Eli titled “Falling Up.”

Both Aila and Eli are quite accomplished players and Furtado’s banjo fits right in with their arrangements. The Wildmans can be found at many festivals, conventions, and jams, bringing their delightful sound to new audiences. (www.thewildmans.net)BF


GARY BREWER & THE KENTUCKY RAMBLERS

GARY BREWER & THE KENTUCKY RAMBLERS
40th ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION

Stretch Grass Music
SGM-4050

With over four decades of music under his belt, Gary Brewer has come full circle with 40th Anniversary Celebration. Since cutting his teeth on bluegrass music in his early teens, Brewer has honed his skills by playing with Bill Monroe, J.D. Crowe, Doyle Lawson, Larry Sparks, and others. The current version of the Kentucky Ramblers includes his father Finley on bass vocals, his son Wayne on vocals, fiddle, and bass, and his other son Mason on mandolin and vocals. Ronnie Stewart fills out the group on banjo and fiddle. On this collaboration, Brewer has invited a number of music cohorts, including the Travelin’ McCourys, Russell Moore, Sam Bush, Dale Ann Bradley, Ralph Stanley II, T. Graham Brown, Ashton Shepherd, Justin Moses, and Doug Phelps.

All of the selections on this project were written by Brewer and reflect his growing up, his family, and his life experiences. “Going Up Shell Creek” kicks off the set with the Travelin’ McCourys. Dale Ann Bradley is featured on “Daddy And The Old Oak Tree,” and Russell Moore joins in on “The Rain Is Coming Down.” Sam Bush appears on “Blues Down In Kentucky,” and Ralph Stanley II lends his voice to “Home Ain’t The Way It Used To Be.” There are a couple of train songs, “Money To Ride The Train” with T. Graham Brown and “Big Train” with Doug Phelps of the Kentucky Headhunters. Country singer Ashton Shepherd adds her voice to “I Don’t Know What’s Become Of Me” and “Love In The Mountains,” which also has Justin Moses on resonator guitar. There are also some songs with just his band and those include “Johnson City Blues,” “Down Home Memories,” “Girl From The Mountain,” and “Sally-O.” This set is straight bluegrass with Stewart’s driving banjo throughout. The album is a delightful look into Gary Brewer’s 40 years of writing and performing. (www.brewgrass.com)BF


TOMMY JACKSON

TOMMY JACKSON
NASHVILLE FIDDLER: THE COMPLETE SOLO RECORDINGS COLLECTION

and more bears AMB 71002

This is an amazing six-CD set that is astounding in its scope. Every one of Jackson’s solo recordings that feature his hoedown fiddling are here. Even if the CD cover says without calls, there are calls on some tracks. These are the hardcore square-dance recordings made for the craze that was sweeping the nation in the 1950s.

Tommy Jackson was an A-team fiddler in the Nashville music scene in the post-war period. If you’ve heard country music from that period through the late 1960s, you’ve heard Jackson fiddle. He played on a wide variety of sessions. There are many classic passages in country music that have one or more fiddles playing a classic phrase that made the song really pop. Jackson was most likely one of the fiddlers you heard.

Starrting with a session in 1949 when he recorded “Black Mountain Rag” and “Sally Goodin” (first recorded in 1922 by Eck Robertson), Jackson went on to record well over a hundred fiddle tunes. The ensuing recordings made him quite popular with fiddlers all over The States and across the world as his recordings were among the few that were readily available. His versions of fiddle tunes are textbook perfect. He doesn’t wow the listener with unnecessary pyrotechnics, but instead plays deceptively simple versions that get to the essence of the tune. His melodic awareness, timing, and bow control are epic. Cast in settings ranging from straight country to Swing and bluegrass, his fiddle comes through strong and clear, with concise precision.

For aficionados, there are some questions as to who played what instrument on some cuts. The booklet in the set features detailed background information, including excerpts from articles written in the early 1980s for these esteemed pages by the late Dr. Charles Wolfe, and a newer essay by Dr. Greg Reish. The discography lists the players on each session as far as it was documented, but questions still abound. For example, Haskel McCormick is listed as playing guitar, but it sure sounds like his banjo playing on the September 1959 sessions. There is a lot of great mandolin on this recording. Some is by Red Rector and Herschel Sizemore, but the note-for-note mandolin work with the fiddle is most likely Hank Garland. Garland was one of the greatest guitarists that ever lived and reportedly he held the mandolin in some disdain, but hey, a gig is a gig. You can see that the influence of these recordings was not just on fiddlers. Garland’s guitar playing displays licks that later Doc Watson used in his playing of fiddle tunes. The sliding double-stops and phrasing sure sound like what Watson was doing.

There is a little distortion on the earliest cuts. As the technology in the studios improved, the sound on these tracks became first-rate. The listener can track changes in country music by the tunes as they appear on this project. At first, there are classic evergreens, but over time, tunes from Fiddling Arthur Smith, Bill Monroe, and tunes that became contest classics start appearing. Some tunes were Jackson’s own creations, such as “Jackson Breakdown” and “Polk County Breakdown.” Hank Garland’s “Sugarfoot Rag” shows up, too. There are 178 cuts here in all. Many would go on to become fiddle standards and bluegrass favorites.

A real gem is nestled in this project—a whole album of Jake Landers and Rual Yarbrough and The Dixie Gentlemen. In that band for this session are Herschel Sizemore on mandolin and Tut Taylor on resonator guitar. No bass is listed, but one can be heard. They do a program of traditional songs and early bluegrass pieces that would become classics, including “Blue Moon Of Kentucky,” “In The Pines,” and “Cabin In The Hills.” Jackson’s fiddling is superb, but that should be no surprise.

Jackson’s repertory included pieces from such fiddle greats as Andrew Baxter, an African-American fiddler who recorded with the Georgia Yellowhammers, Métis-style fiddler Andy de Jarlis, and Red Taylor, a contemporary fiddler from Mississippi. This project also contains some fine twin-fiddling with Howdy Forrester. There are cuts that feature Jackson twinning the mandolin on breaks, including “Saint Anne’s Reel,” a tune from another Canadian fiddler, Bob Scott.

Until now, Jackson’s solo fiddle was only available on one CD from the British Archive Of Country Music, Tommy Jackson: The Legendary Session Fiddler (BACM 294). With twenty-some tracks, it’s a nice introduction. This set, however, is the real deal, comprehensively combining the wealth of fiddle-oriented material that this master fiddler recorded over a two-decade span. Red Rector’s old Gibson A mandolin dances through the tunes, as does Garland’s guitar and mandolin. For most bluegrass lovers, it should be enough to know that Sam Bush devoured these recordings as a youngster and, while most of this is not bluegrass, it is all great fiddling.

The sixth and final CD begins with some tunes recorded with calls and then includes covers of country hits on which Jackson’s fiddle is part of the ensemble, only stepping out to solo on one semi-hot jam, a recasting of “Columbus Stockade.” The remainder of the CD demonstrates Jackson’s true command of his instrument with ten well-known waltzes that drip with that sweet sound that only great fiddlers can bring.

It’s interesting that German and English labels keep our musical heritage alive with the help of some scholars here in The States. We are all richer for having access to these recordings that are bound to bring back memories for the older fans and at the same time provide an idea of what came before for the younger fans. (And More Bears, c/o P.O. Box 13413, Roanoke, VA 24033.)RCB


KENNY AND AMANDA SMITH

KENNY AND AMANDA SMITH
WITH YOU

FarmBoy Records
FBR-1005

With their latest release, Kenny and Amanda Smith have delivered another polished, lush-sounding bluegrass CD filled with Amanda’s IBMA award-winning voice and Kenny’s similarly lauded flatpicking guitar.

Opening with the sublimely engaging “Change,” Amanda’s voice grabs the listener at the first line. “I’ve Not Forgotten You” opens at a nice bouncy clip led by Kenny’s masterclass in guitar-tone intro, followed by an especially tasty flatpicking solo, leading the listener into the song’s finale. The current KASB lineup is amongst their best. Cory Piatt is just the right kind of player for the Smiths’ languid style, always holding steady to the backbeat and ready for a clean, precise solo or intro like “Brand New Road Or Home.” Banjo player Justin Jenkins mirrors that approach, never over the top or overtly flashy, just placing the right notes where they need to be at the right time. The standout track “Norman Rockwell World,” which recently hit #1 on the bluegrass charts, showcases Amanda’s resonant, lovely alto voice perfectly. It’s a powerful message, and in the current times, who among us wouldn’t want to live there? “It Takes A Lot Of You For Me” is also an especially on-brand tune for Kenny and Amanda, who’ve always loved that Chet Atkins Nashville Sound walking bass line mixed in with their brand of bluegrass. With You showcases one of the leading couples in bluegrass at the top of their game, and it’s a must-have for every KASB fan.

So why did I find this release at times uninspiring? While beautifully crafted, most of the songs here cover similar topics in similar key signatures and at similar tempos. There’s not a real, bluegrass foot-stomper among them, although the closer “Too Often Left Alone” does raise the tempo and provides some much-needed energy to the CD. That final track includes a memorable solo from Kenny.

With You most certainly will delight their large and growing fanbase. It’s fantastic for these guys, who are longtime friends and picking pals, to see Amanda get nominated again and to see “Norman Rockwell” World hit #1. With You makes a wonderful melodic statement any bluegrass fan should enjoy. The question is, how can they take the next big step forward? (www.kenny-amandasmith.com)DJM


DARYL MOSLEY

DARYL MOSLEY
THE SECRET OF LIFE

Pinecastle Records
PRC1241

It’s about dang time! Isn’t that what a lot of you thought when you heard that veteran bluegrass musician Daryl Mosley had put out his first solo CD? The much-awaited anticipation is well worth it. Fans know Mosley most recently from his founding membership with The Farm Hands, and before then, his tenure alongside the iconic Osborne Brothers and the first part of his musical life with New Tradition. His bandmate from New Tradition days, Danny Roberts of The Grascals, produced the project along with Mosley.

Roberts lent a songwriting hand in penning one of 11 cuts from The Secret Of Life, “Heartaches Moving In.” Besides that song and “Do What The Good Book Says” that he co-wrote with Rick Lang, the rest of the project is penned solely by Mosley. Musicians adding their creative touch to the singer/songwriter’s CD include Roberts (mandolin), Tony Wray (guitar), Aaron McDaris (banjo), Adam Haynes (fiddle), Michael Stockton (resonator guitar) and with harmony vocals from Irene Kelley, Jaelee Roberts, and Jeanette Williams. Mosley knocks homerun after homerun with his cleverly crafted songs and a smooth, warm voice that transfixes listeners. Here’s hoping for a quick follow-up album. (Pinecastle Records, 2514 River Rd., Piedmont, SC 29673, www.pinecastlerecords.com.)BC


NATE LEE

NATE LEE
WINGS OF A JETLINER

Adverb Records
No Number

Nate Lee goes on his first solo flight with Wings Of A Jetliner. Produced by fellow Becky Buller Band member Professor Dan Boner, Lee’s debut showcases what the 2015 IBMA Momentum Award-winning Instrumentalist Of The Year can do with mandolin, vocals, and composition. Wings Of A Jetliner brings together guest musicians Wyatt Rice, Todd Phillips, Bronwyn Keith-Hynes, Thomas Cassell, Daniel Salyer, and fellow members of the BBB. Bandleader Becky Buller contributes her fiddle and vocal skills on four of the cuts.

Lee wrote the CD’s five instrumentals including “Quick Select,” a light-hearted piece that was inspired by his favorite video game called Ratchet & Clank. Named after his favorite finishing move in the game of chess, “Rook Roller” provides a traditional touch from a riff Lee created while on his couch. Lee, who also plays fiddle, puts a dance-hall spin on “The More I Pour,” a honky-tonk song Tim Stafford and Mark Bumgarner penned, featuring triple fiddles.

Nate shows his versatility again when he pulls out the clawhammer banjo for “Miner’s Grave,” a dark tale of a moonshiner’s tragic life. Bandmate Salyer wrote “Tobacco,” a driving track that BBB backs Lee on about the Black Patch Tobacco Wars of the early twentieth century in western Kentucky and Tennessee. (www.thenatelee.com)BC


PHARIS AND JASON ROMERO

PHARIS AND JASON ROMERO
BET ON LOVE

Lula Records Lula-CD-2006

With Bet On Love, British Columbia’s Pharis and Jason Romero continue to burnish their already lofty reputation as leading producers of stellar new songs informed by old-time, folk, and bluegrass music. Showcasing and exploring the potential of Pharis’ lustrous vocals, Bet On Love also finds the couple pushing at the edges of the envelope of their own style. Yet, they never lose touch with tradition.

That experimental urge reveals itself most in the slow to mid-tempo arrangements. The second selection, the co-write “New Day” provides the clearest example. Her ethereal vocals soar over perfectly matched accompaniment. In just that one song, they draw on roots elements to create something original that could be played on AAA, folk, or bluegrass radio.

Despite their influences and instrumentation, the Romeros had no intention of playing rapid-fire breakdowns or fiddle tunes on this project, which includes only one understated instrumental. Sure, we hear Jason’s full, round open-back banjo playing, but picking is a means, not an end on this album. On the ten vocal numbers, John Reischman and bassist Patrick Metzger join Pharis and Jason in as tasteful a quartet as one can assemble.

The seven songs, three by Pharis alone, draw lyrically and structurally on folk traditions. Often succinct storytelling ballads, the lyrics give every indication that each word has a purpose. On Bet On Love, Pharis and Jason eschew everything superfluous and never lose focus to near perfection. (www.pharisandjason.com)AM


JB & JAMIE DAILEY

JB & JAMIE DAILEY
STEP BACK IN TIME

Pinecastle Records
PRC1238

As the saying goes, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. What a mighty tree Jamie Dailey toppled from! The talented tenor of Dailey & Vincent teams up with his gifted dad, JB, for the full-length collaboration, Step Back In Time. Before the CD officially rolled out, it had already hit #1 on Amazon’s best-selling bluegrass albums chart.

Produced by Jamie, the album features 13 classic songs, leading off with Jimmie Davis’ “Nobody’s Darlin’ But Mine” that Merle Haggard made famous. The album’s straight-ahead bluegrass pays homage to the genre’s founding fathers on the Flatt & Scruggs gospel standard “Mother Prays Loud In Her Sleep.” They give their unique version of the Country Gentlemen’s “Behind These Prison Walls Of Love” and an upbeat “Ashes Of Love” to lead off the CD, as well as Doyle Lawson’s gospel hit “Vision Of Jesus.”

Lawson, Jamie’s former boss, helps out on the CD, as does Dailey’s partner, Darrin Vincent and D&V bandmembers Bob Mummert, Patrick McAvinue, and Aaron McCune. Also appearing are Tristan Scroggins and Charlie Cushman. Country Music Hall Of Famer Jimmy Fortune of the Statler Brothers brought in his incredible tenor singing on an a cappella version of “Gloryland.” The duo also laid down an instrumental version of Roy Acuff’s “Great Speckled Bird.”

According to Jamie, “Working and performing with my dad in the studio again has taken me back down memory lane, and it has let us both relive some of the best times of our lives.” (Pinecastle Records, 2514 River Rd., Ste. 105, Piedmont, SC 29673, www.pinecastlerecords.com.)BC