LATEST REVIEWS

Distance And Time – Dark Shadow Recording (2020)

becky buller

 

Here she comes again! High five! Together again with Ned Luberecki on banjo, Prof. Dan Boner on guitar, Nate Lee on mandolin and Daniel Hardin on bass. Also included are a bunch of all-star friends and (yes) fiddle players: Laurie Lewis, Laura Orshaw, Michael Cleveland, Deannie Richardson, Jason Barie, Katie Penn and Jason Carter. You’ll even hear Sam Bush and Shawn Camp on here to play the fiddle, as well as Bronwyn Keith-Hynes and the great Stuart Duncan. Vocal support is provided by Ronnie Bowman, Melonie Cannon, The Isaacs and the Fairfield Four. And last, but certainly not least, we have Jerry Douglas on resophonic guitar, to accompany Becky playing clawhammer banjo on an exciting version of Joni Mitchell's “Woodstock“.

The beautiful single “More Heart, Less Attack“ is driven by the band's built in clockwork, Ned Luberecki. Additional tracks include original tunes with the collaboration of some great writers like Valerie Smith on “Don't Look Back“, Donna Ulisse on “Life Gets Up And Gets Gone“ and also Eric Gibson and Jon Weisberger. Becky Buller goes from folk to bluegrass, from traditional to progressive and from rock to gospel in “Tell The Truth,” with the Fairfield Four. The track “Salt And Light“ with The Isaacs lending fantastic harmony support even reminded me a little of Crosby, Stills & Nash.

With all the big names and great musicians contributing to this record, it’s still a band project of the inner circle formed by Lee, Luberecki, Boner and Hardin. These guys play together hand-in-glove, like only a live performance band can. For instance, take a listen to the instrumental by Luberecki and Buller “Inglewood Upon Stratford“. And Becky's voice has the right musical foundation to make the songs shine as bright as possible. And what a singer she is! That brings me back to the aforementioned version of Joni Mitchell's “Woodstock“. Not many vocalists would try to reach the top tower of this song.

Lastly, I am down to mentioning the single “The Barber's Fiddle“. A beautiful, old-time-like tune reflecting a love for playing the fiddle. It features an extraordinary all-star fiddlers orchestra assembled from today's bluegrass music. For me, this song really sums the record up. It's got heart, rhythm, a great melody, and the soul of bluegrass. Props must go out to the distinguished production by Stephen Mougin and his Dark Shadow Recording studio and label. Check out this complete and well rounded album from a band at its peak.

Reviewed by:
SEVERIN THEINERT
for Uncut Grass
November 2020

WE’RE FALLING FOR THESE HOT NEW SINGLES! 

This year's been out of the ordinary in every aspect.. All the troubles and insecurity our world has faced. The fear and anxiety. The uncertainties and hatred. All this seems to have brought to light what really lies beneath a country, a nation and a single person. Inside the bluegrass community, we're lucky to have a whole lotta good people who know how to deliver their best. Yes, they had some time on their hands with no live shows, no festivals, and not even the IBMA to attend. So lucky for us, they took that time to write new songs, record them, and present us with brand new music to enjoy. Here is only a glimpse of what we all may expect in the near future…a bunch of great new records! 

Wrong Turn That Led Me To You – Wilson Banjo Co. 
Pinecastle Records, 2020 

A great new voice, young and fresh, yet deep, smokey and smooth: Colton Rudd. Recording for the first time with the great Wilson Banjo Co. A new song – finally! Out of the pen of Mr.Steve Wilson himself. A thought provoking song about how life sometimes turns bad decisions into our good fortune. Simple twist of fate.… and although I may definitely be biased with this band and record, you can bet this is a well-crafted, heartfelt piece of music. Do yourself a favor and go check it out

Eighteen Wheels And A Dozen Roses – Tina Adair 
Engelhardt Music Group, EMG, 2020 

Best known for her work with the extraordinary “Sister Sadie“ as well as for the remarkable record “Bradley & Adair“ together with Dale Ann Bradley, Tina has already released three solo records. And here at last is the first single for the forthcoming one. It is striking! Tina delivers a beautiful vocal that proves why she is considered one of the best female singers in today's bluegrass music. A tight recording from Engelhardt Music Group and their amazing crew of musicians. Get it HERE!

Lonesome Leaving Train – Amanda Cook 
Mountain Fever Records, 2020 

Well, here she is again. After their 2019 album “Point Of No Return“ Amanda Cook and her amazing band have fortunately returned full force. An absolute Cook-tune, co-written by Thomm Jutz, with a specific flow and melody constantly rolling down a hill that is not too steep. Carolyne van Lierop Boone’s steady banjo rounds it all out. This is the third single after “West Virginia Coal“ and “Get On Board,” and all of these songs really let us expect a great album – again. We’ll be waiting! Get the new single here

Goodbye Again – Lee Kotick and the Sharp Flatpickers 
Mountain Fever Records, 2020 

Do you like sweet and soft vocals? Do you like tender melodies? Then you will love the awesome singing and breathtaking harmonies here. This new single by Lee Kotick in collaboration with Claire Lynch and Ronnie Bowman is superb. Claire Lynch wrote this tune in a classic sixties country style, and also contributes the lead vocal, in a duet with the great Ronnie Bowman. This will resonate with anyone who can harken back to a bygone era of classic duets. Add this one to your playlist today! Get it here

Falling Down – Dale Ann Bradley 
Pinecastle Records, 2020 

I don't often use the term 'angelic' but for the voice of Dale Ann Bradley, I don't know any other term that suits. She assumes the highest lonesome in her singing. That is one thing I love so much about bluegrass music – combining hope and happiness with melancholy and loneliness in a perfectly delivered vocal. The result is impeccable with this lovely tune, written by Ashby Frank, a superb rendition of thoughtful lyrics. Available HERE now!

Till The River Starts To Rise – Eddie Sanders 
Engelhardt Music Group, EMG, 2020
 

The brand new song by Eddie Sanders was released in September. An exciting follow-up to his chart topping all gospel project from Engelhardt Music Group. Up-tempo, hard-driving, compelling bluegrass at its best, with irresistible harmony vocals. I love how the banjo and the resophonic guitar battle themselves, yet carry the whole track seamlessly, at the same time. Truly a masterful and very enjoyable piece of work that leaves you looking forward to the entire record. Get it TODAY!

Fall Single Review from 
Severin Theinert for 
Uncut Grass - October 2020

Fine Time To Get The Blues – Driving Duke Records (2020)

Terry Baucom's Dukes of Drive

 

Terry Baucom's Dukes Of Drive are back with their third record already. Still the same aristocratic line-up with Will Jones on guitar and vocals, Joey Lemons on mandolin and vocals, Joe Hannabach on bass and Terry Baucom himself driving the banjo. The band is supported by Justin Moses who's contributing dobro and fiddle to some tracks. With these names alone I could go on and lose myself in superlatives of bluegrass music. But there's no need to reiterate that the probabilities for a first-class bluegrass record from this crew are high. Believe me when I say, your expectations will not be disappointed.

I’ll begin by talking about what makes this record special and different from others. First of all, there are two songs with the amazing Cindy Baucom singing lead vocals and she does a splendid job. On the one hand, there’s Mike Garris' gospel-waltz “Will The Light Be Shining Bright,“ and on the other, we have Buck Owens’ “Under Your Spell Again“. These two tracks alone draw on the wide range of this album and it's very interesting song selection. It has a lot of classic country and rock'n'roll flavors, and feels like Terry wanted to showcase his respect for melodic tunes and classic harmonies. This album is less hard-driving and more heart-felt than previous releases. Take an enjoyable listen to the title track, Jim Ed Brown's “Fine Time To Get The Blues“ and you'll hear what I mean. A great song and an even greater interpretation. It’s played a tad faster than the original and replaced the pedal-steel with a banjo.

But don't get me wrong! It's still a bluegrass album and it has it's grassy, up-tempo tracks, too. For example the first single, “Here Come The Teardrops“, written by Milan Miller. And “Land On Our Feet,“ from Ed Williams. The opening track, “Hang Me High At Midnight,“ is also an Ed Williams song. All of them are great tunes with a steady driving banjo theme and incredible harmony vocals. And then there is the standout, “Me, Myself And Why,“ co-written by Eddie Sanders, Jon Weisberger and Adam Engelhardt. A sad reflection of being left alone and heart-broken, with a subtle chord progression underlaid with the fine line of the fiddle.

This year Terry Baucom celebrates his fiftieth year as a professional musician and we are all glad and thankful to have been blessed with his gifts. Starting with Charlie Moore in 1970, becoming a founding member of the legendary Boone Creek, and going on to play with acts like Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, IIIrd Tyme Out, starting “Lou Reid, Terry Baucom & Carolina“ and of course, the beloved, “BlueRidge“. One could say Terry has literally been all over the place in this business. Traveling around the bluegrass world and always steadfast at the epicentre all at the same time. Terry Baucom is one of the most important musicians of the bluegrass genre. If this year has given you the blues so far, go get yourself this record, it'll let the light shine bright again.

REVIEWED BY:
SEVERIN THEINERT for Uncut Grass
October 2020

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.

REVIEWED BY:
SEVERIN THEINERT for Uncut Grass
October 2020

The Mountain Minor Motion Picture Soundtrack – Alt452 Records (2020)

Various Artists

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.

REVIEWED BY:
SEVERIN THEINERT for Uncut Grass
October 2020

Fast Track – Engelhardt Music Group (2020)

Fast Track

This is the long awaited debut album of the new bluegrass supergroup Fast Track. The members of this all-star extravaganza are Dale Perry (banjo), Steve Day (fiddle), Ron Spears (bass), Jesse D. Brock (mandolin) and Duane Sparks (guitar). And as you read these names you know for yourself that each and every band member is providing vocals. One could say that this band is mostly “David Parmley & Cardinal Tradition“ without David Parmley, which was pretty amazing already, but wouldn't tell half the story. The different members of “Fast Track“ have played with Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, Continental Divide, Larry Stephenson, Special Consensus, The James King Band, Ronnie Reno, Lonesome River Band, Gary Brewer, Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper, Chris Jones and the Nightdrivers, Audie Blaylock and Redline, Joe Mullins and the Radio Ramblers and more. And Ron Spears had his own outfit as a band leader some years back with “Ron Spears and Within Tradition“. These guys have all been around but they never have lost their love for the music.. And this is exactly what makes this record so special. This is not one star beside another on stage – this is a true band. A band with so much experience and respect, making the band leader unnecessary.

Like the members of the band, the song selection is exquisite. Three originals by Ron Spears and the title track instrumental by Dale Perry. These four tracks pretty much set the tone for what this band is all about. Hard-driving traditional bluegrass with a love for melody and harmony. We also get songs from the record written by Brink Brinkman, David Stewart and more. It's needless to say but there is not one song that isn't worth being on this record.

I’ll kick off by mentioning my favorites. Check out the opener “Blue And Lonesome Again“ written by Ron Spears. It boasts a great rhythm, awesome melody and harmony vocals, and has a bluesy kind of feeling. Next, the bluegrass cover of country tune, “Play Me A Song I Can Cry To,“ written by Jerry Chesnut and originally recorded by “The Killer,“ Jerry Lee Lewis. Another great cover song is the 1989 “(I Wish I Had) A Heart Of Stone,“ by Baillie & the Boys, turned into an up-tempo bluegrass hit. And the thought provoking, “Ghost Of A Miner,“ about the hard working Appalachian people during the mining days. There is something unconditionally uplifting like “Come On Down“ with one of the most beautiful mandolin breaks I've heard yet. The CD closes with another great song from 'Brink' Brinkman, arranged and recorded in a stripped down folky style with a pleasant and surprising ‘walloon’ banjo and mandolin melody line.

I think you can get the picture: This is one of the BEST BLUEGRASS RECORDS I have heard this year! I say this not only because of the wide ranged, brilliant song selection, or the absolutely remarkable musicians and singers. But also because of the most perceptive recording, engineered by Adam Engelhardt and Glen Duncan of Engelhardt Music Group. Let's just hope that these guys stick together for many years of live shows and records to come.

REVIEWED BY
SEVERIN THEINERT for Uncut Grass
September 2020