Lonesome Highway - The Highway Called

Lonesome Highway - The Highway Called

Lonesome Highway - The Highway Called

No Label
No Number

Lonesome Highway is a fourpiece group from Romney, W.Va. Personnel includes John Arnold (banjo, harmony vocals), Tom Suddath (bass, vocals), Jimmy Kountz (mandolin, vocals), and Buddy Dunlap (guitar, vocals). This CD, their second, features primarily original compositions with nine of the fourteen tracks from Dunlap and Arnold.

The band has chosen tunes from the slightly more progressive end of the bluegrass spectrum for the project. The lead vocals are generally good with strong harmonies (although a few cuts are not as convincing as they could be), and the instrumental work is solid. Among the highlights are Vince Gill’s “All Prayed Up,” Dunlop’s “Hoping You Will Change Your Mind,” a spirited a cappella version of Dudley Connell’s “See God’s Ark AMovin,” and Tom Foley’s “Alberta Clipper.” Also included here are nice versions of “Gravel Yard” and “Dark Hollow.”

My one reservation is the overall choice of material—seven of the first eight songs are all from the love-sought, love-lost, or love-gone-wrong categories. More variety and generally stronger material would have strengthened this release. Overall, it’s a solid and wellperformed effort on the part of Lonesome Highway. (Lonesome Highway, HC66 Box 20, Romney, WV 26757, www.lhway.com.) AW

Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out

Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out

Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out

Rural Rhythm Records
RHY1045

When a band as distinguished as IIIrd Tyme Out changes its name, you can’t help but wonder if anything else has changed as well. Original members Russell Moore (guitar, vocals), Steve Dilling (banjo, vocals), and Wayne Benson (mandolin, mandola, vocals) form a strong core unit. Justen Haynes (fiddle, vocals) is a relative newcomer, as is Edgar Loudermilk, who replaces Ray Deaton on upright bass and vocals.

Moore remains very much the frontman, turning in great lead vocals on ten of the album’s twelve tracks. He’s clearly enjoying himself on faster, grassier fare such as “Little John, I Am,” “Knee Deep In The Blues,” “Big City Blues,” and the radiofriendly “Carolina’s Arms.” Even “Hard Rock Mountain Prison (Till I Die),” which employs just about every bluegrass cliché, sounds great with Moore tearing through it over Dilling’s grinding banjo.

Moore is even more at home on ballads such as the sentimental “Me And Dad,” the bittersweet “The Last Greyhound” and “Prayer For Peace,” an update to Jim & Jesse’s “Weapon Of Prayer.” The best song here is Becky Buller’s “My Angeline,” a kind of flip side to IIIrd Tyme Out’s hit “John & Mary” that begins with Benson on mandola, but ends with love lost rather than celebrated.

Instrumentally, the band is as strong (perhaps even stronger) as ever, evidenced by their playing on each vocal track and the Celtictinged, Monroestyle Benson composition “Boiling Springs.”

One thing that does seem to have changed about the group is the amount of grand, gripping vocal arrangements they’re known for, but, luckily, we get to hear on “The Eastern Gate,” a fine gospel number that closes a good album. (Rural Rhythm Records, P.O. Box 660040, Dept. D, Arcadia, CA 91066, www.ruralrhythm.com.) AKH

Special Consensus - Signs

Special Consensus - Signs

Special Consensus - Signs

Pinecastle Records
PRC1169

Over the years, Greg Cahill has maintained an impressively high level of musicianship in his Chicago-based band, Special Consensus. The latest incarnation on “Signs” shows no signs of letdown. The current version of the band includes Cahill on banjo, Justin Carbone on guitar, Ashby Frank on mandolin, and David Thomas on bass. Complementing the core band on “Signs” are guests Randy Kohrs (resonator guitar) and Tim Crouch (fiddle), with Sonya Isaacs contributing harmony vocals on “Footprints.”

The band tackles the never-ending quest for fresh, new material by writing or cowriting half of the 12 songs on the recording and choosing the remaining tracks wisely from a variety of sources—including two (“Footprints” and “Talkin’ Bout It Just Don’t Get It Done”) penned by Ronnie Bowman and a couple of underdonebutdeserving covers (“Mountain Girl” and “I’ll Go To My Grave Loving You”).

Lead vocals are split pretty evenly between Carbone and Frank, both tasteful and appealing singers. No single track jumps out to my ears, though. In what seems to be a general feature of contemporary bluegrass music these days, there are a lot of medium tempo songs that, taken together, flatten the overall project. The exception, “Snowball Breakdown,” is a dandy uptempo instrumental with Cahill showing some fancy “tuning and a whole lot of pickin’.”

Instrumentally, the performances are masterful. Cahill is a superbly-talented banjo player—tasteful, clean, and imaginative. Carbone and Frank are wellknown in their own right as insiders (and sometimes hired guns) in the Nashville bluegrass scene, but Special Consensus is particularly enjoyable because of their commitment to being part of the band. That’s not to take away from the contributions of Kohrs and Crouch, but there’s an emphasis on ensemble sound and not just musical pyrotechnics that makes “Signs” particularly enjoyable. (Pinecastle Records, P.O. Box 753, Columbus, NC 28722, www.pinecastle.com.) AWIII

The Stonemans - Patsy, Donna & Roni

The Stonemans - Patsy, Donna & Roni

The Stonemans - Patsy, Donna & Roni

THE STONEMANS
PATSY, DONNA & RONI

Patuxent Music
CD183

How long has it been since the pioneering Stoneman sisters recorded together? As their old buddy Charlie Waller might say, “Ages and ages ago.” Now, thanks to Tom Mindte at Patuxent Music, we can once again hear these ladies singing and strutting their musical stuff with Patsy on autoharp, Donna on mandolin, and Roni on banjo. Thankfully, the music is not overproduced, nor is the sisters’ own playing overshadowed by hot licks. The backup musicians, including Nate Grower and Merl Johnson on fiddles and Jeremy Stephens on guitar, support the stars tastefully, but stay out of the way.

Patsy, everfaithful to the memory of clan patriarch Pop Stoneman, sings four of his songs including “Sinking Of The Titanic,” along with her own autobiographical “Prayers And Pinto Beans.” Donna salutes brother, Scott, with the original “Scotty’s Bow” and honors her own gospel ministry with “House Of The Lord,” “This Little Light Of Mine,” and “I Feel Like Traveling On.” But it is her mandolin playing that will steal your heart. Her Monroeinflected style is quirky, fanciful, inventive, and, in a word, delightful, especially on the aforementioned “…Pinto Beans.”

Roni steps past her role as Ida Lee Nagger on Hee Haw! to get serious while singing “Shackles And Chains” and “I Forgot More Than You’ll Ever Know,” showing off a fine voice. She also spotlights her banjo playing with a rousing version of Cousin Emmy’s “Ruby” and takes the lead on Pop’s “Remember The Poor Tramp Has To Live.” (With the sisters singing in close trio harmony, this number is one of the best on the CD.)

The music of the Stonemans has taken many twists and turns over the years. The twenty-first century finds these three sisters returning to the sounds they grew up on during the ’30s and ’40s. I think Pop and Hattie Stoneman would be proud. (Patuxent Music, P.O. Box 572, Rockville, MD 20848, www.pxrec.com.) MHH

Conor Mulroy - Salinger

No Label
No Number

Conor Mulroy states that “Salinger” is “…through composed. It consists of a thirty-minute piece broken up into three movements for mandolin, fiddle, guitar, and bass, a twenty-minute piece broken up into two sections for nylon-string guitar, steel-string guitar, fiddle, and bass, and a short piece for solo piano.” An obvious point of comparison is Chris Thile’s recent album, “Punch,” with his Punch Brothers also “through composed” (in other words, somewhat classical in regards to form), using bluegrass instrumentation. There must be something in the air.

Two big differences are that “Punch” has vocals and banjo, while “Salinger” uses neither. The differences extend beyond instrumentation to style, as well. “Salinger” never dips far into dissonance, with contrasts subtle and gradual as opposed to jarring or abrupt. Overall, on the surface, “Salinger” is less demanding and somewhat more inviting, at least at first, than “Punch.” It’s relative calmness and easy contrasts, however, place demands of a different sort on the listener in that it too easily drifts into the background on initial listens if concentration flags, though repetition reveals plenty of musical substance—this is not Windham Hill-style, New Age noodling.

The playing is spotless; lead by Mulroy on mandolin, nylon-string guitar, and piano, guitarist John McGann (so impressive as one of the Wayfaring Strangers), Crooked Still’s double bassist Corey DiMario, and Grand National Fiddle Champion Tristan Clarridge. They play well as an ensemble, and ensemble is what this is all about. There’s little in the way of solos or improvising here, the unaccompanied elements more like thoughtful cadenzas in nature rather than lengthy flights of fancy. (Conor Mulroy, P.O. Box 7485, Jackson, WY 83002, www.conormulroy.com.) DR

Marty Raybon and Full Circle - This, That and The Other

Marty Raybon and Full Circle - This, That, and the Other

Marty Raybon and Full Circle - This, That, and the Other

MARTY RAYBON AND FULL CIRCLE
THIS, THAT, AND THE OTHER

Synchoro Records
SRR128591

Just as the title implies, “This, That, And The Other” offers up a variety of music from Marty Raybon and his band. The 13 cuts, along with a bonus track (“Any Ol’ Stretch Of Black Top”), showcase the country, bluegrass, and gospels sides of Marty and perhaps underline the point that good music doesn’t need to be labeled.

Produced by Raybon, Marty once again demonstrates his untouchable vocal interpretations on songs such as the piano ballad “You Get Me.” He chisels out his own version of a couple of George Jones covers, “Ain’t Love A Lot Like That” and the humorous “Nothing Ever Hurt Me (Half As Much As Loving You).” He belts out hard-drivin’ ’grass on the opener, “Leavin’ On The Next Thing Smokin’,” and croons a silky-smooth snappy take on the a cappella, “Didn’t It Rain Rain Children” about the great Biblical flood.

Marty’s Full Circle Band—Chris Davis (mandolin), Daniel Grindstaff (banjo), Glenn Gibson (resonator guitar), and Jayd Raines (bass)—step center stage with tasteful fills, solid timing, and subtle melodious nuances that embellish Marty’s impeccable performance. (Marty Raybon, P.O. Box 74009, Tuscumbia, AL 35674, www.martyraybon.com.) BC

The Essential Clarence White Bluegrass Guitar Leads

The Essential Clarence White Bluegrass Guitar Leads

The Essential Clarence White Bluegrass Guitar Leads

THE ESSENTIAL CLARENCE WHITE BLUEGRASS GUITAR LEADS
BY ROLAND WHITE & DIANE BOUSKA WITH STEVE POTTIER & MATT FLINNER
Diane and Roland Music 9780982114629. Includes two CDs, 102 pp, $34.95. (Diane & Roland Music, 224 Bermuda Dr., Nashville, TN 37214, www.rolandwhite.com.)

In addition to being a labor of love, this book fills every wish list one might have for an instructional book on Clarence White’s lead guitar playing. It is the most thorough and indepth look at Clarence’s life and guitar style that has yet been published. If you enjoy or play bluegrass guitar, this book is (as it says in the title) essential.

Bluegrass fans will be familiar with Clarence’s legacy as one of the first bluegrass flatpickers to have an impact on the developing style back in the early 1960s. His brother and famed mandolinist Roland White and Roland’s wife Diane Bouska, with transcription help from guitarists Steve Pottier and Matt Flinner, have put together the ultimate Clarence White guitar book.

It is at once an instructional book with tab, a personal memoir by Roland White with many great family photos, and a discussion of Clarence’s style by Diane Bouska, providing an indepth look at Clarence’s technique with commentary on each tune. It includes two CDs, the first containing 14 guitar solos played by Clarence in 1962 on his Martin D18. Even if you’ve heard Clarence’s playing many times, you have to hear this. It is jawdroppingly good. The recordings are crystal clear thanks to Ben Surratt’s engineering and mastering of the original tapes. The disc also includes bonus video clips of Clarence playing two tunes on TV in 1973.

The second CD contains slow and fast versions of the same 14 songs as rhythm tracks so you can practice with a great rhythm section that includes Roland White and Diane Bouska on rhythm guitars and Missy Raines on bass. The songs include “Shady Grove,” “Sally Goodin,” “FlopEared Mule,” “Banks Of The Ohio,” “Wildwood Flower,” and “Billy In The Lowground,” among others.

Roland and Diane are to be commended for creating such a thorough and accessible book. They could easily have just written a tribute to Clarence, but they’ve done that and gone beyond in giving us all an understanding of how and why his playing was so inspiring. In the foreword, Marty Stuart states that in Clarence’s “29 years on this earth, he made the kind of music that will live forever.” This labor of love by Roland and Diane ensures that it will. CVS

Sarah Jarosz - Song Up In Her Head

Sarah Jarosz - Song Up In Her Head

Sarah Jarosz - Song Up In Her Head

Sugar Hill
SUG-CD-4049

If we were to judge Sarah Jarosz, who was still 17 when this was recorded (she’s 18 now), by the company she’s keeping on her Sugar Hill debut “Song Up In Her Head,” well, she’s doing pretty darn well: Chris Thile, Jerry Douglas, Stuart Duncan, Ben Sollee, Tim O’Brien, Mark Schatz, Mike Marshall, Abigail Washburn, Darrell Scott, Chris Eldridge, to give only a partial run down.

By the third track, it’s pretty obvious why such top-flight players chose to be a part of this project—she’s already a top-flight artist herself. Her voice, though youthful, has a slightly world-weary tinge that draws a degree of expression that’s rare in someone her age. Whether she’s playing mandolin, guitar, or clawhammer banjo, she sounds natural and relaxed, and superb.

As a songwriter, Jarosz promises to be a major force. No dogs in this bunch (the title track, the exhilarating “Left Home,” both of her instrumentals—all highlights), but special mention must go to “Edge Of A Dream,” a coming-of-age evocation with a melodic grace that, again, is striking coming from a teenager.

From all indications, Sarah Jarosz is a major addition to the acoustic scene, her introduction to us among the best releases of the year. (Sugar Hill, PO Box 120897, Nashville, TN, sugarhillrecords.com.) DR

Review: Various Artists - Jubilee: Best Of Renfro Valley Bluegrass Festival

VARIOUS ARTISTS
JUBILEE: BEST OF RENFRO VALLEY BLUEGRASS FESTIVAL
KET Ed. TV
No Number

Jubilee, produced by Kentucky Educational Television (KET), is one of the country’s finest music series, and since 1996 has presented a range of artists from J.D. Crowe to Roger McGuinn. This DVD (surprisingly hard to find online) is a special episode filmed at the 2008 Renfro Valley Bluegrass Festival. Featured artists are Rhonda Vincent & the Rage, Grasstowne, Dale Ann Bradley, the Grascals, Ronnie Reno & the Reno Tradition, and a few regional acts: Burchett, Morgan & 5ivespeed, the All American Bluegrass Band, Fast Lane, and the Cumberland Gap Connection.

This production is all about the music and is professionally shot with multiple cameras. The crew has extensive experience and knows when to cut to a solo or when to frame a trio. That’s a welcome change from the usual television fare where the crew doesn’t have a clue about the dynamics of a bluegrass band. What you won’t get here is any sense of the festival itself. It’s all focused on the main stage. For most bluegrass fans, that won’t matter. The show is edited by removing all betweensong talk, so all you get are the performances. Some viewers may prefer getting the full set, including stage banter, rather than just the songs, but you might appreciate not hearing the sometimes lame stage talk between songs.

All the main acts are in good form with Rhonda serving her usual high energy show (good to see Kenny Ingram on banjo). The show is a time capsule from 2008 and would be a valuable addition to any bluegrass video collection, but not essential. (KET Duplication Services, 600 Cooper Dr., Lexington, KY 40502, e-mail: shop@ket.org.) CVS

Lonesome Highway - The Highway Called

Lonesome Highway - The Highway Called

LONESOME HIGHWAY
THE HIGHWAY CALLED

No Label
No Number

Lonesome Highway is a fourpiece group from Romney, W.Va. Personnel includes John Arnold (banjo, harmony vocals), Tom Suddath (bass, vocals), Jimmy Kountz (mandolin, vocals), and Buddy Dunlap (guitar, vocals). This CD, their second, features primarily original compositions with nine of the fourteen tracks from Dunlap and Arnold.

The band has chosen tunes from the slightly more progressive end of the bluegrass spectrum for the project. The lead vocals are generally good with strong harmonies (although a few cuts are not as convincing as they could be), and the instrumental work is solid. Among the highlights are Vince Gill’s “All Prayed Up,” Dunlop’s “Hoping You Will Change Your Mind,” a spirited a cappella version of Dudley Connell’s “See God’s Ark AMovin,” and Tom Foley’s “Alberta Clipper.” Also included here are nice versions of “Gravel Yard” and “Dark Hollow.”

My one reservation is the overall choice of material—seven of the first eight songs are all from the love-sought, love-lost, or love-gone-wrong categories. More variety and generally stronger material would have strengthened this release. Overall, it’s a solid and wellperformed effort on the part of Lonesome Highway. (Lonesome Highway, HC66 Box 20, Romney, WV 26757, www.lhway.com.) AW

Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out

Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out

RUSSELL MOORE & IIIRD TYME OUT

Rural Rhythm Records
RHY1045

When a band as distinguished as IIIrd Tyme Out changes its name, you can’t help but wonder if anything else has changed as well. Original members Russell Moore (guitar, vocals), Steve Dilling (banjo, vocals), and Wayne Benson (mandolin, mandola, vocals) form a strong core unit. Justen Haynes (fiddle, vocals) is a relative newcomer, as is Edgar Loudermilk, who replaces Ray Deaton on upright bass and vocals.

Moore remains very much the frontman, turning in great lead vocals on ten of the album’s twelve tracks. He’s clearly enjoying himself on faster, grassier fare such as “Little John, I Am,” “Knee Deep In The Blues,” “Big City Blues,” and the radiofriendly “Carolina’s Arms.” Even “Hard Rock Mountain Prison (Till I Die),” which employs just about every bluegrass cliché, sounds great with Moore tearing through it over Dilling’s grinding banjo.

Moore is even more at home on ballads such as the sentimental “Me And Dad,” the bittersweet “The Last Greyhound” and “Prayer For Peace,” an update to Jim & Jesse’s “Weapon Of Prayer.” The best song here is Becky Buller’s “My Angeline,” a kind of flip side to IIIrd Tyme Out’s hit “John & Mary” that begins with Benson on mandola, but ends with love lost rather than celebrated.

Instrumentally, the band is as strong (perhaps even stronger) as ever, evidenced by their playing on each vocal track and the Celtictinged, Monroestyle Benson composition “Boiling Springs.”

One thing that does seem to have changed about the group is the amount of grand, gripping vocal arrangements they’re known for, but, luckily, we get to hear on “The Eastern Gate,” a fine gospel number that closes a good album. (Rural Rhythm Records, P.O. Box 660040, Dept. D, Arcadia, CA 91066, www.ruralrhythm.com.) AKH

Special Consensus - Signs

Special Consensus - Signs

SPECIAL CONSENSUS
SIGNS

Pinecastle Records
PRC1169

Over the years, Greg Cahill has maintained an impressively high level of musicianship in his Chicago-based band, Special Consensus. The latest incarnation on “Signs” shows no signs of letdown. The current version of the band includes Cahill on banjo, Justin Carbone on guitar, Ashby Frank on mandolin, and David Thomas on bass. Complementing the core band on “Signs” are guests Randy Kohrs (resonator guitar) and Tim Crouch (fiddle), with Sonya Isaacs contributing harmony vocals on “Footprints.”

The band tackles the never-ending quest for fresh, new material by writing or cowriting half of the 12 songs on the recording and choosing the remaining tracks wisely from a variety of sources—including two (“Footprints” and “Talkin’ Bout It Just Don’t Get It Done”) penned by Ronnie Bowman and a couple of underdonebutdeserving covers (“Mountain Girl” and “I’ll Go To My Grave Loving You”).

Lead vocals are split pretty evenly between Carbone and Frank, both tasteful and appealing singers. No single track jumps out to my ears, though. In what seems to be a general feature of contemporary bluegrass music these days, there are a lot of medium tempo songs that, taken together, flatten the overall project. The exception, “Snowball Breakdown,” is a dandy uptempo instrumental with Cahill showing some fancy “tuning and a whole lot of pickin’.”

Instrumentally, the performances are masterful. Cahill is a superbly-talented banjo player—tasteful, clean, and imaginative. Carbone and Frank are wellknown in their own right as insiders (and sometimes hired guns) in the Nashville bluegrass scene, but Special Consensus is particularly enjoyable because of their commitment to being part of the band. That’s not to take away from the contributions of Kohrs and Crouch, but there’s an emphasis on ensemble sound and not just musical pyrotechnics that makes “Signs” particularly enjoyable. (Pinecastle Records, P.O. Box 753, Columbus, NC 28722, www.pinecastle.com.) AWIII

The Stonemans - Patsy, Donna & Roni

The Stonemans - Patsy, Donna & Roni

THE STONEMANS
PATSY, DONNA & RONI

Patuxent Music
CD183

How long has it been since the pioneering Stoneman sisters recorded together? As their old buddy Charlie Waller might say, “Ages and ages ago.” Now, thanks to Tom Mindte at Patuxent Music, we can once again hear these ladies singing and strutting their musical stuff with Patsy on autoharp, Donna on mandolin, and Roni on banjo. Thankfully, the music is not overproduced, nor is the sisters’ own playing overshadowed by hot licks. The backup musicians, including Nate Grower and Merl Johnson on fiddles and Jeremy Stephens on guitar, support the stars tastefully, but stay out of the way.

Patsy, everfaithful to the memory of clan patriarch Pop Stoneman, sings four of his songs including “Sinking Of The Titanic,” along with her own autobiographical “Prayers And Pinto Beans.” Donna salutes brother, Scott, with the original “Scotty’s Bow” and honors her own gospel ministry with “House Of The Lord,” “This Little Light Of Mine,” and “I Feel Like Traveling On.” But it is her mandolin playing that will steal your heart. Her Monroeinflected style is quirky, fanciful, inventive, and, in a word, delightful, especially on the aforementioned “…Pinto Beans.”

Roni steps past her role as Ida Lee Nagger on Hee Haw! to get serious while singing “Shackles And Chains” and “I Forgot More Than You’ll Ever Know,” showing off a fine voice. She also spotlights her banjo playing with a rousing version of Cousin Emmy’s “Ruby” and takes the lead on Pop’s “Remember The Poor Tramp Has To Live.” (With the sisters singing in close trio harmony, this number is one of the best on the CD.)

The music of the Stonemans has taken many twists and turns over the years. The twenty-first century finds these three sisters returning to the sounds they grew up on during the ’30s and ’40s. I think Pop and Hattie Stoneman would be proud. (Patuxent Music, P.O. Box 572, Rockville, MD 20848, www.pxrec.com.) MHH

Sarah Jarosz - Song Up In Her Head

Sarah Jarosz - Song Up In Her Head

SARAH JAROSZ
SONG UP IN HER HEAD

Sugar Hill
SUG-CD-4049

If we were to judge Sarah Jarosz, who was still 17 when this was recorded (she’s 18 now), by the company she’s keeping on her Sugar Hill debut “Song Up In Her Head,” well, she’s doing pretty darn well: Chris Thile, Jerry Douglas, Stuart Duncan, Ben Sollee, Tim O’Brien, Mark Schatz, Mike Marshall, Abigail Washburn, Darrell Scott, Chris Eldridge, to give only a partial run down.

By the third track, it’s pretty obvious why such top-flight players chose to be a part of this project—she’s already a top-flight artist herself. Her voice, though youthful, has a slightly world-weary tinge that draws a degree of expression that’s rare in someone her age. Whether she’s playing mandolin, guitar, or clawhammer banjo, she sounds natural and relaxed, and superb.

As a songwriter, Jarosz promises to be a major force. No dogs in this bunch (the title track, the exhilarating “Left Home,” both of her instrumentals—all highlights), but special mention must go to “Edge Of A Dream,” a coming-of-age evocation with a melodic grace that, again, is striking coming from a teenager.

From all indications, Sarah Jarosz is a major addition to the acoustic scene, her introduction to us among the best releases of the year. (Sugar Hill, PO Box 120897, Nashville, TN, sugarhillrecords.com.) DR

ON THE EDGE


Conor Mulroy - Salinger

Conor Mulroy - Salinger

CONOR MULROY
SALINGER

No Label
No Number

Conor Mulroy states that “Salinger” is “…through composed. It consists of a thirty-minute piece broken up into three movements for mandolin, fiddle, guitar, and bass, a twenty-minute piece broken up into two sections for nylon-string guitar, steel-string guitar, fiddle, and bass, and a short piece for solo piano.” An obvious point of comparison is Chris Thile’s recent album, “Punch,” with his Punch Brothers also “through composed” (in other words, somewhat classical in regards to form), using bluegrass instrumentation. There must be something in the air.

Two big differences are that “Punch” has vocals and banjo, while “Salinger” uses neither. The differences extend beyond instrumentation to style, as well. “Salinger” never dips far into dissonance, with contrasts subtle and gradual as opposed to jarring or abrupt. Overall, on the surface, “Salinger” is less demanding and somewhat more inviting, at least at first, than “Punch.” It’s relative calmness and easy contrasts, however, place demands of a different sort on the listener in that it too easily drifts into the background on initial listens if concentration flags, though repetition reveals plenty of musical substance—this is not Windham Hill-style, New Age noodling.

The playing is spotless; lead by Mulroy on mandolin, nylon-string guitar, and piano, guitarist John McGann (so impressive as one of the Wayfaring Strangers), Crooked Still’s double bassist Corey DiMario, and Grand National Fiddle Champion Tristan Clarridge. They play well as an ensemble, and ensemble is what this is all about. There’s little in the way of solos or improvising here, the unaccompanied elements more like thoughtful cadenzas in nature rather than lengthy flights of fancy. (Conor Mulroy, P.O. Box 7485, Jackson, WY 83002,  www.conormulroy.com.) DR

BLUEGRASS AND BEYOND


Marty Raybon and Full Circle - This, That, and the Other

Marty Raybon and Full Circle - This, That, and the Other

MARTY RAYBON AND FULL CIRCLE
THIS, THAT, AND THE OTHER

Synchoro Records
SRR128591

Just as the title implies, “This, That, And The Other” offers up a variety of music from Marty Raybon and his band. The 13 cuts, along with a bonus track (“Any Ol’ Stretch Of Black Top”), showcase the country, bluegrass, and gospels sides of Marty and perhaps underline the point that good music doesn’t need to be labeled.

Produced by Raybon, Marty once again demonstrates his untouchable vocal interpretations on songs such as the piano ballad “You Get Me.” He chisels out his own version of a couple of George Jones covers, “Ain’t Love A Lot Like That” and the humorous “Nothing Ever Hurt Me (Half As Much As Loving You).” He belts out hard-drivin’ ’grass on the opener, “Leavin’ On The Next Thing Smokin’,” and croons a silky-smooth snappy take on the a cappella, “Didn’t It Rain Rain Children” about the great Biblical flood.

Marty’s Full Circle Band—Chris Davis (mandolin), Daniel Grindstaff (banjo), Glenn Gibson (resonator guitar), and Jayd Raines (bass)—step center stage with tasteful fills, solid timing, and subtle melodious nuances that embellish Marty’s impeccable performance. (Marty Raybon, P.O. Box 74009, Tuscumbia, AL 35674, www.martyraybon.com.) BC


BOOKS

The Essential Clarence White Bluegrass Guitar Leads

The Essential Clarence White Bluegrass Guitar Leads

THE ESSENTIAL CLARENCE WHITE, BLUEGRASS GUITAR LEADS
BY ROLAND WHITE & DIANE BOUSKA WITH STEVE POTTIER & MATT FLINNER
Diane and Roland Music 9780982114629. Includes two CDs, 102 pp, $34.95. (Diane & Roland Music, 224 Bermuda Dr., Nashville, TN 37214, www.rolandwhite.com.)

In addition to being a labor of love, this book fills every wish list one might have for an instructional book on Clarence White’s lead guitar playing. It is the most thorough and indepth look at Clarence’s life and guitar style that has yet been published. If you enjoy or play bluegrass guitar, this book is (as it says in the title) essential.

Bluegrass fans will be familiar with Clarence’s legacy as one of the first bluegrass flatpickers to have an impact on the developing style back in the early 1960s. His brother and famed mandolinist Roland White and Roland’s wife Diane Bouska, with transcription help from guitarists Steve Pottier and Matt Flinner, have put together the ultimate Clarence White guitar book.

It is at once an instructional book with tab, a personal memoir by Roland White with many great family photos, and a discussion of Clarence’s style by Diane Bouska, providing an indepth look at Clarence’s technique with commentary on each tune. It includes two CDs, the first containing 14 guitar solos played by Clarence in 1962 on his Martin D18. Even if you’ve heard Clarence’s playing many times, you have to hear this. It is jawdroppingly good. The recordings are crystal clear thanks to Ben Surratt’s engineering and mastering of the original tapes. The disc also includes bonus video clips of Clarence playing two tunes on TV in 1973.

The second CD contains slow and fast versions of the same 14 songs as rhythm tracks so you can practice with a great rhythm section that includes Roland White and Diane Bouska on rhythm guitars and Missy Raines on bass. The songs include “Shady Grove,” “Sally Goodin,” “FlopEared Mule,” “Banks Of The Ohio,” “Wildwood Flower,” and “Billy In The Lowground,” among others.

Roland and Diane are to be commended for creating such a thorough and accessible book. They could easily have just written a tribute to Clarence, but they’ve done that and gone beyond in giving us all an understanding of how and why his playing was so inspiring. In the foreword, Marty Stuart states that in Clarence’s “29 years on this earth, he made the kind of music that will live forever.” This labor of love by Roland and Diane ensures that it will. CVS