Plan It Or Build It – Independent (2020)
Late For The Train
Every once in a while something unexpected emerges. New, at least for me over here in Germany. The people of northern California probably knew about this remarkable band called “Late For The Train.” The quartet consists of David Pascoe on guitar, mandolin and vocals, Laura Benson plays fiddle and also contributes vocals, Thomas Beneduci on the bass and vocals and Nick Blechman playing the mandolin, banjo and guitar.
Obviously well skilled instrumentalists with a large background of musical experience, and the quality of performing live regularly – this band has put together a ten track debut album which is definitely worth mentioning. The mixture of styles here is very elegant and sensitive. We get celtic music, folk, bluegrass, but most of all, excellent songwriting. There is love present for tradition, including folk, old-time and bluegrass styles. We also get a tribute to more modern acts like Mandolin Orange or Mipso.
If you decide to give them a listen then I recommend the first track, “Sang Through The Summer.“ This song combines all the above mentioned instrumental and vocal skills and arrangement. The next stand out for me was track 4, “Timbre“ - a very nice up-tempo folk song with great lyrics, a beautiful arrangement and tight harmonies. Another one of my favorites is track #7, “Sweet Sierra“.
This record is like a small blooming flower inside of this year's chaos. Skillful musicianship, well delivered vocal and harmony, and the diversified songwriting. Also worth a mention, the recording and the production, all the way down to the artwork.
SEVERIN THEINERT for Uncut Grass
The Mountain Minor Motion Picture Soundtrack – Alt452 Records (2020)
I was honored to be asked to write a review about the soundtrack of the award-winning film “The Mountain Minor“ by Dale Farmer. In the early 20th century, millions of Appalachian people left their homes in search of jobs in industrialized cities, spreading traditional mountain music wherever they went. The motion picture follows one such family through several generations beginning in the Great Depression. Based loosely on the experiences of writer-director Dale Farmer’s grandparents, the film tells the story of an Eastern Kentucky family forced to leave their mountain home to find work in Ohio during the Great Depression.
Instead of using professional actors, Farmer cast old-time musicians in most of the roles. Featuring performances by Dan Gellert, Elizabeth LaPrelle, Ma Crow, Asa Nelson, Hazel Pasley, Lucas Pasley, Aaron Wolfe, Warren Waldron, Judy Waldron, Trevor McKenzie and Mike Oberst and The Tillers. The album is produced by Keyth Neso and Scott Young. It is really amazing since the recordings were recorded on-screen during the filming – live on scene. That's an incredible piece of work and accomplishment for every musician mentioned. Special mention is deserved for the two child actors and musicians Hazel Pasley and Asa Nelson. They are playing the “young Charlie and Ruth“, the ones we follow through their lives. But what is more is how well they play their instruments and the deep emotion harnessed for the old-time music and such young ages.
Initially, the film delivers an atmosphere of those being the days when everything was alright. As it goes on, it reflects just how tough daily life was and the reality of privation. Throughout the picture, the high lonesome is present. It reflects the melancholy that seems to be the one thing that is so hard to describe about bluegrass music. The whole soundtrack opens you up to feel the musical heritage that bluegrass was built upon. There is a unique mixture of European and African folk music weaved in with gospel and church music. Dale Farmer, an old-time musician himself, composed an original song, “Across the Ohio,” which he performs with lead singer Jake Book and musicians Susan Pepper, Lucas Pasley and Trevor McKenzie. More than any other song on the album, “Across the Ohio'' sums up what the film is about: “Fare you well, Kentucky girl, my time has come to go, going to make my living there, across the Ohio.”
Mike Oberst, of The Tillers, and Trevor McKenzie contributed quite a few original tracks on the soundtrack album as well. The majority of the compilation consists of old, traditional songs. They reach way back and give you the same feelings that Dock Boggs, Clarence Ashley, Charlie Poole and Roscoe Holcomb did. You’ll hear simple fiddle tunes and some clawhammer accompaniment, acapella tunes, as well as old Baptist hymns from southeastern Kentucky. The 39 tracks on this soundtrack album present themselves as if scenes from throughout the whole story. Like a good movie soundtrack should, the music delivers the complete picture. You’re transported back to another time and place when listening to this record, even without having watched the movie. And I, for one, can't wait to see the motion picture.
SEVERIN THEINERT for Uncut Grass
Starry Southern Nights – self released (2020)
This is an eight track debut record of a five piece band that I initially just kinda stumbled across on facebook. After making contact and asking if there was a CD available, the bass-player Rick Brodsky said he'd hook me up. To be honest, I didn't know what to expect at that point. Two weeks later I found it in my mailbox and couldn't wait to put it in my CD player. It took exactly 20 seconds to know that this was a good find. The banjo kicked off on the opening track and then brilliant fiddle work opened the door for the vocals. Amazing!
Alex MacLeod is playing the guitar, Joe Deetz plays the banjo, Danny Musher on fiddle, Billy Thibodeau is on the mandolin and the backbone of the project, a stout bass performance by Rick Brodsky. Stephen Mougin recorded and mixed the project and it was produced by Ned Luberecki – need I say more?
The opener '99 Year Blues' is followed by seven superb bluegrass tracks, including three original tunes. The banjo instrumental by Joe Deetz deserves honorable mention. It’s called Juxtaposed, and is followed by the elegant cover of Don't Take It Too Bad from Townes van Zandt.
Every song is well balanced and arranged with the right tempo and mood. Each band member adds just what is necessary to carry the songs and the great vocals and harmonies. This record is really...really good. There’s an element of fun and surprise that leaves you absolutely satisfied. The only negative… it's too short! After hearing the last track Stagger Lee, that showcases amazing mandolin support, you just want more. More Rock Hearts!