LATEST REVIEWS

Bluegrass Troubadour – Pinecastle Records (2021)

Danny Paisley & the Southern Grass

Since the passing of Bob Paisley in 2004, his son Danny Paisley, has carried on with “The Southern Grass,” a great traditional bluegrass band that first began performing in the early eighties. In the past twenty years Danny Paisley has managed to preserve his father's heritage, while at the same time evolving with his very own unique style. For me, this new record is the peak so far for Danny Paisley, and it's rightfully titled “Bluegrass Troubadour”.

With Bobby Lundy playing the bass, Mark Delaney on banjo, Matt Hooper on fiddle and son Ryan Paisley playing the mandolin, Danny Paisley has led the band into this new decade without giving up anything the band has stood for the last forty years. But what is more, he established a new, recognizable style of singing and arranging the songs he chooses.

The new album features new songs from Eric Gibson, Robert Amos and Brink Brinkman, as well as traditionals like “Eat At The Welcome Table,” standards like “Forty Years Of Trouble,” or Charlie Poole's “May I Sleep In Your Barn Tonight, Mister”. One of the highlights for me is the rolling “I'd Rather Live By The Side Of The Road,” by Albert E. Brumley. It perfectly suits the vibe of the band, and Danny's singing, as well as his known love for gospel tunes.

Also worth mentioning is the original instrumental written by Ryan Paisley, an up-tempo mandolin theme called “Fancy Gap Runaway” - it sure makes you want to hike in Virginia!

The previous album, “That's Why I'm Lonesome” on Tom Mindte's Patuxent Music was already one of my favorites in 2018. But this amazing record is so complete and shows such maturity. The Bluegrass Troubadour seems to have been here forever and is here to stay.

Reviewed by:
Severin Theinert for
Uncut Grass

June 2021

Tina Adair – Engelhardt Music Group (2021)

Tina Adair

So far everything released by Engelhardt Music Group and Adam Engelhardt has been absolute high-class bluegrass. The label has established an outstanding roster of artists, and also a great production team and an all-star studio band. At the same time they manage to really crystallize the particularities of each and every artist they are recording with, pushing their individual sounds and styles to their highest peak.

So, it's almost no surprise that this self-titled album by Tina Adair is simply fantastic. Starting off with the first single “Eighteen Wheels And A Dozen Roses.” It's a perfect bluegrass song, a good love story with an upbeat tempo driven by the banjo – a story that’s uplifting and lonesome at the same time it sets the mark for the entire album.

Tina has previously recorded some solo projects. First in 1997 on Sugar Hill Records with “Just You Wait And See” and then “Born Bad” in 2013. But to most of us she is better known for her work with the fabulous Sister Sadie. And of course last year's project together with Dale Ann Bradley, 'Oh Darlin'. One might wonder, what more can this world-class singer reach for. Well, just go and listen to this new record to hear for yourself.

The excellent opener is followed by the amazing track 'Room 404' written by Tammy Rogers. Let me put it this way: Tina nails it. She delivers her powerful but still gentle voice throughout and you hear her years of experience shine through. The song is carried by the stellar band including, Cody Kilby and Pat McGrath on guitar, Casey Campbell on mandolin, the great Scott Vestal on banjo, Rob Ickes on dobro, Dennis Crouch on bass and Tim Crouch playing the fiddle. Tina plays some mandolin herself on the record as well and her vocals are accompanied by harmonies from: Garnet Imes Bowman, Ronnie Bowman, Vicki Hampton, Robert Bailey and Wes Hightower.

Ronnie Bowman also contributed a song, track three, “Still Got A Long Way To Go.” This is a smooth Bowman song with a deep emotional feel to it. Directly followed by the hard-driving, sassy single, “Won't Be Crying Over You”. Tina co-wrote this gem with her Sister Sadie partner Gena Britt. That might be the reason for this rocking banjo theme? Scott Vestal gives you shivers every time he kicks in.

Alright, before I lose myself in superlatives, maybe you get the picture. This record is really good. Be sure to check out track five 'Why You Been Gone So Long' by Mickey Newbury. First played by Johnny Darrell in 1969 it really seems like it's been waiting all these years just for Tina and this band to come and pick it up and give it it's true sound and place in the world.

I will stop now. Just take my advice and go get this record. Trust me when I say, you can put your ear on anything Tina Adair is involved with and be musically satisfied.

Reviewed by:
Severin Theinert for
Uncut Grass

May 2021

Cycles – Signature Sounds (2021)

RACHEL BAIMAN

 

Rachel Baiman has come a long way and her work is absolutely worth mentioning. She embodies everything that I love about music. Rachel has got a musical history and background where she draws from for a beautiful voice that goes deep and her ability to write a song. But most of all, she has the heart to evolve and reinvent herself with each new project she releases.

As I am usually writing about more bluegrass leaning records, I couldn't help but feel honored to be asked by Signature Sound Recordings if I would like to write a review about this new Rachel Baiman record called “Cycles”.

I have followed Rachel Baiman's recordings since 2015, when she was with the progressive bluegrass duo “10 String Symphony,” along with fiddle player Christian Sedelmyer. This is where she came from: old-time fiddle music. But even back then, she had already begun to shine with a contemporary interpretation. Baiman has a sophisticated sense of material choices and a great talent for writing her own original songs as well.

The new record seems like the logical next step in Rachel Baiman's career. She has recorded in the home country of her partner George Jackson, in Australia. And again, Josh Oliver, of Mandolin Orange is on board. Like with the last record “Shame,” produced by Andrew Marlin, where he and Oliver contributed almost all of the instrumentation. This time, Rachel Baiman has added some top notch artists from down under. Included on “Circles” are Olivia Hally, Bree Hartley and Cy Winstanley. Together they navigate the music on the record across the borders of old-time, folk and Americana, into an edgier region of Australian grunge rock. Throughout, Rachel keeps to her three original stringed instruments: the fiddle, banjo and guitar and of course adding her amazing voice.

Rachel’s vocal takes us very deep inside her own feelings and thoughts, while at the same time carrying us out in the world – such as the wide angle perspective of a camera. We see and hear it all, not missing a single thing. From an inside perspective to a general view shared by all about these times, in our world.

My personal favorites on this record are “Rust Belt Fields” and “Hope It Hurts”. But another highlight is the heartbreaking “Young Love”. This song is so Baiman, and triggers a feeling like what Andrew Marlin said in 'The Wolves': “everything's so great / can't get better / makes me wanna cry”.... or maybe like Jay Farrar: “sad songs keep the devil away”. Awe …

Next, Rachel follows with the beautiful “Ships In The Night” … folky and with a gentle clawhammer banjo underneath and another delightful melody. You really do need to listen to it for yourself to appreciate the layers. I'm confident you'll find something you’ll like. It's very exciting to observe this very unique talent just working hard and loving what she does. Meanwhile, the world outside still tries to categorize, wondering where to put her and how to describe her. In my opinion, with all great artists, it’s about the right combination of love and theft… knowing and being comfortable with your history, that you may have come to earth in a strange place, but you just have to focus on the long journey home.

Reviewed by:
Severin Theinert for
Uncut Grass

May 2021

BOBBY & TEDDI CYRUS (PINECASTLE RECORDS 2021)

BOBBY & TEDDI CYRUS

You may recall I included their first single 'Wedding Day' in a singles write up earlier this year. While some may recognize Bobby Cyrus as the cousin of ‘Achy Breaky’ country music star, Billy Ray, he says that “it was his father, Bobby Glenn Cyrus, who inspired him most and encouraged him in songwriting and composing.” Teddi and Bobby were married in 2015 and their union has lead them to this new musical journey.

They have already seen much success, with their second single 'Let's Talk About Jesus' from the self-titled debut album, doing well now on Pinecastle Records.

The husband and wife duo gathered an amazing crew of musicians around them for the project. Don Rigsby on mandolin, Justin Moses on dobro, fiddle and banjo, Scott Vestal on banjo, Kenny Smith on guitar, Eamon McLoughlin on fiddle, cello and viola and last but not least Dave Roe and Mark Fain playing the bass.

The second track on the album after the single 'Wedding Day' is the soulful 'He Rescued Me'. Featuring powerhouse, Teddi on lead vocals, it offers a good banjo drive and dobro music theme. Like 'Wedding Day' and 'Let's Talk About Jesus' it is a gospel track with powerful and uplifting lyrics.

The entire album has an inspirational overtone, with each and every track lending itself to a different aspect of faith, life and belief. Though arrangements and musicality clearly make the album comfortable for any bluegrass or Americana platform.

Consisting of mostly original tracks penned by Bobby Cyrus himself and with the help on some from the great Ronnie Bowman. Especially the beautiful and thoughtful 'I Pray'.

It is hard to pick and highlight single songs out of this album. It has to be listened to and experienced as a whole, where every a song is like a chapter of a good book that brings light into these sometimes dark and troublesome times. It will lift you up.

Make sure to check out this album, released on Pinecastle Records.

Reviewed by:
Severin Theinert for
Uncut Grass

May 2021

Migrants – self released (2021)

Hayde Bluegrass Orchestra

 

Let me put it straight right from the beginning: This is a beautiful record.

This is not strictly bluegrass of course. Hayde Bluegrass Orchestra is an eight piece ensemble from Norway and they intermingle anglo-saxon folk, American Appalachian old-time music and Norwegian folklore. Each musician contributes what he or she does best and with all the passion they have for creating this distinctive music. The Hayde Bluegrass Orchestra is from Oslo, Norway. They are Rebekka Nilsson – vocals, Joakim Borgen – mandolin, Ole Engrav – guitar, Magnus Eriksrud – banjo, Moa Meinich – fiddle, Jonas Olsen – upright bass, Emil Brattested – dobro and Sjur Marqvardsen – accordion. They’ve said in an interview that they “had to make up their own style since they were not born and raised in Appalachia with this music in their blood.” And that's exactly what they did. They've already pulled attention with remarkable live performances and have almost 30K followers on their YouTube channel. Having gained some fame for their well chosen cover songs such as 'Señor' by Bob Dylan or the classic 'Wayfaring Stranger'.

On this debut record ten out of the twelve tracks are original songs. With this unique cross-over between European folk music and bluegrass tradition. As poignant musically as lyrically written and delivered. And they're bold enough to start the record with a mid-tempo waltz in a minor key. The beautiful song 'Heaven And Hell'. It is like a road map for the record with it's 'Purgatory' intro. It combines a Western American feeling with European harmonies, great musicianship carried by a dobro, and excellent vocals. While it's not exactly high-lonesome, has an almost eastern European melancholy to it. Next is the banjo driven 'Smokey Mountain Railway' which combines classic bluegrass with a sort of French folklore. It has a pleasing pace and chord-progression with absolutely stunning harmony vocals. And – like every other track on the record – instrumentally on point. The breaks seem to present new twists into additional musical heritage at every turn.

Surely one of my favorites, is the heartbreaking 'Take Me Away'. It's hard to describe, maybe because by now we have to admit that the Hayde Bluegrass Orchestra has created it's very own sound and style. This gentle melody is carried by Rebekka Nilsson's breathtaking and powerful voice, first only accompanied by banjo and a little dobro, until it climbs up to the chorus with full back-up harmony vocals, almost like a full church choir. The track 'My Heart And Soul (On Love)' also touches just enough on Jazz without going too far down the rabbit hole.

One of the covers is the modern country classic ‘All My Tears' by Julie Miller. It threw me back to the Emmylou Harris' version from 1995. This arrangement fits Rebekka's crystal clear vocals so well – it’s haunting. This track showcases the artistry of this band because they know exactly what is better left un-played.

What more can I say about this remarkable record? It is very well recorded and engineered. Every musician pours all of their heart into the dynamic arrangements. Even the artwork is mentionable: much like the album, it's subtle and elegant. It leaves me mesmerized upon listening, amazed at what my ears have witnessed. A great record by a bunch of great musicians from Europe's cold north. So, watch out for the 'Hayde Bluegrass Orchestra' from Norway. This is just the beginning.

Reviewed by:
Severin Theinert for
Uncut Grass
April 2021

Born Lonesome – self released (2021)

Born Lonesome

 

You like bluegrass? You like rhythm and blues? And you like some blues and folk? Then maybe you just want to join in this with me: the debut album of Born Lonesome. A six piece bluegrass outfit from central Florida founded in 2019. Each member has been around a while, mostly in traditional bluegrass.

Band leader and lead singer Chad Spikes also engineered and recorded this record. The rest of the band includes Jimmie White on guitar, Royce Burt playing the banjo, Steve Durrwachter on fiddle, Lamont Goff playing the mandolin and finally on the bass is Claybo Varnum. Together they have not only created a ten track album of original tunes but also an individual style of it's own. Beginning on a good solid foundation of bluegrass, Chad Spikes and the band explore rhythm and blues as well as folk music. They are great storytellers and deliver straight from the heart, real life stories in their lyrics. Each song is held together by Spike's remarkable, soulful singing skills.

The record kicks off with 'White Ford Bronco', a tune about right and wrong, and learning the lesson that you don't have the right to harm someone just because he took from you. This track sets the bar for this record. You get everything you need from this collection. Exceptional singing, great chord progressions, a steady beat carried by banjo and mandolin – and captivating breaks.

Another highlight is the song 'Deacons Of Mercy' written by the bass player Claybo Varnum, who also takes on lead vocals. A true story passed down by his Grandfather about a man in church who was abusing his wife and was warned by the Deacons of the church. When he did not listen, they took away his manhood. Literally. Directly followed by a fantastic instrumental, 'Frog Strangler' written by banjo player Royce Burt, a tune that shows the skills of each band member as well as their impressive ensemble playing.

Next up is the haunting 'Apalachee Sky'. A sad but true family story about Chad Spikes' sister and niece. It truly is amazing how Spikes found the words to tell this drama. But when the mandolin takes it's break it almost makes you cry. You've got to experience this track for yourself.

The record closes with a straight on bluegrass song 'Woodville'. Good banjo driven tempo, great vocals and magnetic mandolin breaks – everything a bluegrass fan could ask for. I highly recommend the album. This is a well rehearsed team of excellent musicians with a lot of live experience and a one of a kind singer telling true life stories – that's what I call bluegrass!

Reviewed by:
Severin Theinert for
Uncut Grass
April 2021

Narrowing The Gap – Mountain Fever Records (2021)

amanda cook

 

Before we talk about the new Amanda Cook album, we first have to take a moment to remember Aaron 'Frosty' Foster. Aaron Foster was Amanda's guitar player and friend, on stage and off, as well as on this record. In addition to the Amanda Cook Band, Frosty had other projects going on, like his band 'Dreamcatcher' and the most recent, 'Boone & Foster'. He suddenly and tragically passed away on February 10, 2021, at the young age of twenty-eight. Aaron was well known not only for his skill and musicality, but for the positivity he has spread – which you will feel throughout this new record. He is terribly missed by his family, friends, and the entire bluegrass community. 

'Narrowing The Gap' is Amanda Cook's third full length project for Mountain Fever Records and it shows her continuing development as a praiseworthy female, bluegrass band leader. Supporting Amanda’s compelling lead vocals in the band are Aaron 'Frosty' Foster on guitar, Carloyne VanLierop-Boone on banjo and vocals, Troy Daniel Boone on mandolin, George Mason on fiddle and Josh Faul on bass and vocals. As an important side note, congratulations to Carolyne and Troy, who have just announced the birth of their baby daughter, Emeree on March 12th!

‘Narrowing The Gap’ kicks off with a real burner, 'Get On Board' by Hayes and Wakeman. Banjo driven, up-tempo, straight forward bluegrass. A track I love because it's powerful and melodic at the same time. It's narrowing the gap between traditional and modern bluegrass. The rest of the record continues to guide us through Amanda's magnificent range and diverse repertoire. Folk. Ballads. Love-songs. Country. But most of all, just plain grass. Two of my favorites are 'Burning Down The Mountain' and 'West Virginia Coal'. The first being a story about the daughter of a bootlegger being chased by the murderers of her father while she has to burn her daddy's distillery. 'West Virginia Coal' is a sad but beautiful coal miner's story, who one day doesn't come home from work.

Next up is the uplifting gospel tune 'Light In This World'. Another shining example of the variety of this album and the pure artistry and creativity of Amanda Cook. With each song she touches, it seems so effortless, yet always so filled with the appropriate passion and emotion. That's what truly makes a great singer. Definitely worth a mention is the great engineer, Aaron Ramsey who had the controls on this one. Ramsay also contributes some mandolin, guitar, vocals and even a little bass playing on the project. The album closes with 'Where Are You Darlin'' … well let me tell you … I am right here listening to this record and I'll still be around for the next one, too.

Reviewed by:
Severin Theinert for
Uncut Grass
March 2021

Barry Abernathy & Friends – Billy Blue Records (2021)

BARRY ABERNATHY

Barry Abernathy is here! I mean, he has been around for quite a while with Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, IIIrd Tyme Out and Mountain Heart. And he has most recently set an amazing mark with his two Appalachian Road Show records in 2018 and 2020. This new all-star project “Barry Abernathy & Friends'' is remarkable! And when I say all-stars I mean ALL-STAR! Sam Bush and Doyle Lawson on mandolin; Bryan Sutton playing the guitar and some clawhammer banjo; Jim Van Cleve playing the fiddle and singing harmony; Ron Stewart playing the banjo; Rob Ickes is on resonator guitar; and in the engine room there is Jason Moore on the upright bass.

The list gets even more exciting with the vocal duet partners Barry Abernathy gathered around himself. Not only the late great Steve Gulley, also Shawn Lane, Rhonda Vincent, Josh Swift, Dan Tyminski – and yes, Vince Gill!

Several years ago, as Barry Abernathy and Darrell Webb were still tossing around ideas for what would become their highly successful collaboration, Appalachian Road Show, Abernathy had weightier things on his mind. He’d left Mountain Heart and was facing a serious neck surgery. Doctors warned him that there was a risk of damage to his vocal cords, and Barry felt the need to have his voice recorded, just in case.

“I really hadn’t sung on that many recordings,” Abernathy says. “I was thinking about something my kids could have one day, and I was wishing I had a project.” - Barry Abernathy

The result is absolutely astonishing. Eleven high-class bluegrass, classic country and gospel tracks. Starting off with the absolutely amazing version of 'Birmingham Jail'. Released as the first single as a duet with the one and only, Vince Gill. This track raises the bar for all releases to come this year. Tight, driving and well-balanced, it goes straight to the heart of the listener. Next up is a haunting tune written by North Carolinian songwriter, Malcolm Holcombe. The story of a man who can't make a living and has to leave for Detroit. A great tune where Barry is accompanied by the late Steve Gulley. Gulley also joined in for the next song, another Malcolm Holcombe tune, a ragtime blues number called 'One Leg At A Time'. The next duet partner is Shawn Lane on Julie Miller's, 'A Train Robbery'. We also get a heartbreaking waltz with Rhonda Vincent, and the Grayson & Whitter classic 'Short Life Of Trouble' in an up-tempo version with Vince Gill.

Another highlight for me is the Reno & Smiley track 'Unwanted Love' which is delivered here with Dan Tyminski and some amazing breaks by this fabulous backing band. Also worth the mention is the beautiful gospel song 'They Tell Me' in collaboration with Doyle Lawson and Josh Swift. This is a record of superlatives. In regards to song selection, the superb backing band and, of course, all the strong vocal partners. From the opener until the closing track 'Lost John' by Luther G. Presley, with its clawhammer kick by Bryan Sutton and stunning vocals by Steve Gulley. What an appropriate way to close this outstanding record out.

Reviewed by:
Severin Theinert for
Uncut Grass
March 2021

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