Sunday, December 29, 2013

A few of Amy's Bluegrass favorites of 2013...

Happy New Year...almost!  In these last few days of 2013, you've likely seen lots of lists of "Top ___" or "Best of ___" for the year.  For the last couple of years, I've been posting a year-end list of favorite Bluegrass recordings on the WHUS website, and I will do that once again this year.  Here's my standard disclaimer when putting this favorites list together:  I am one person with one opinion, and the things I like don't necessarily jive with what is currently "popular" on any particular Bluegrass chart.  If you're one who likes to read these "favorites" lists, here are a couple more for your consideration:  Jim's more traditional-leaning favorites of the year, the Top 10 Bluegrass CDs of 2013 according to the website PopMatters, and some favorite Bluegrass recordings per the Engine 145 website.  My list follows here, and the titles are arranged alphabetically by performer -- not by any kind of ranking:

  • BIG COUNTRY BLUEGRASS - "Memories Of The Past" (Rebel Records) : If you think that the sounds of traditional Bluegrass are being lost to more country- or pop-sounding Bluegrass, you probably have not heard of this Virginia-based band.  The addition of tenor singer/guitar picker Eddie Gill to BCBG gave them an even more-traditional sound, if that's possible, and several of the songs featured on this recording do well to feature his pure voice.

  • THE BOXCARS - "It's Just A Road" (Mountain Home) : Another winning collection of originals and covers from this very successful, very entertaining band.  What's not to like?

  • JAMES KING - "Three Chords And The Truth" (Rounder Records) : Jim gave a terrific description of this recording in his recent favorites list, so I really can't add much.  Given the direction of Rounder's recent 2013 "Bluegrass" offerings (not very hardcore at all), this is a welcome return of James King -- perhaps the single most-emotionally-charged singer in all of Bluegrass (or darn close, anyway).
  • GIBSON BROTHERS - "They Called It Music" (Compass Records) : In this part of the world, any new recording from New York's Gibson Brothers is
    likely going to be received very warmly, no matter what the sound quality might be.  However, the praise bestowed on this 11th Gibson recording is not undeserved.  The title track is infectious -- so much so that the song stayed at the #1 position on the Bluegrass Unlimited National Bluegrass Survey charts for several months, and the brothers retained their IBMA Entertainer of the Year title when they won that award (and a couple others) in late September.  Can't wait to hear their next recording, which, rumor has it, *may* turn out to be a "best of brothers" CD.  We'll see...

  • DEL McCOURY BAND - "The Streets Of Baltimore" (McCoury Music) : This Bluegrass Hall of Famer has been performing professionally for more than 50 years, but he gives no appearance of slowing down.  That's definitely a good thing, as this Fall 2013 release from Del and the boys has some great songs, including a fine version of the Tompall Glaser/Harlan Howard-penned title track first recorded by Bobby Bare in 1966.

  • MARTY RAYBON & FULL CIRCLE - "The Back Forty" (Rural Rhythm Records) : Marty Raybon has been in the music business for 40 years -- hence the title of the record.  The songs included here range from covers of old Webb Pierce country songs, Bluegrass songs from the song catalog of the late Randall Hylton, and several songs written or co-written by Marty Raybon.

  • LOU REID & CAROLINA - "20th Anniversary Concert - Live At The Down Home" (KMA Records) : Confession:  Lou Reid has been one of my favorite voices in Bluegrass since I first heard him singing with Doyle Lawson &
    Quicksilver in the early 1980s.  Still, this record that showcases Lou & Carolina celebrating their 20 years as a band is a good one, I think, and the song selections come from the band's eight studio recordings (plus Lou's mighty fine 1991 Sugar Hill solo record, "When It Rains.")  Good stuff.

  • DON RIGSBY - "Doctor's Orders:  A Tribute To Ralph Stanley" (Rebel Records) : This is a CD that we knew was coming for a while, as Don Rigsby himself handed out review copies of the CD at IBMA back in 2011.  It's an absolute dandy:  a heartfelt tribute to a Bluegrass legend who clearly has had a rather large impact on the musical life of someone who himself is a well-respected, award-winning Bluegrass performer.  Nice!

  • SIDELINE - "Session 1" (Mountain Fever Records): While the Bluegrass Album Band is probably the most famous of all of the Bluegrass "SuperGroups," this occasional band has made a quite good first recording.  The band includes recently-retired banjo picker for IIIrd Tyme Out, Steve Dilling, his son-in-law, Skip Cherryholmes on guitar, and multi-talented Darrell Webb doing most of the lead vocal singing and picking the mandolin.  Other members include Justin Haynes on fiddle (IIIrd Tyme Out) and Jason Moore on bass (Mountain Heart).  That this record is titled "Session 1" leads me to believe we may hear more from this band...and that would not be a bad thing at all.

  • JUNIOR SISK & RAMBLERS CHOICE - "The Story Of The Day That I Died" (Rebel Records) : Junior Sisk has been having a great couple of years with a few terrific, traditional-leaning recordings for Rebel Records, and this past September, a nod as Male Vocalist of the Year by the International Bluegrass Music Association.  Clearly, this is a guy on top of his game, as he also is part of this next pick...

  • JUNIOR SISK & JOE MULLINS - "Hall Of Fame Bluegrass!" : This is a fine collection of songs originally recorded by several Bluegrass Hall of Famers (the Osborne Brothers, Carter Family, Country Gentlemen, and Mac Wiseman, just to name a few).  Junior & Joe don't normally work together, but you would never know that as this record is top-notch.  We can only hope that some enterprising Bluegrass promoters figure out to put these guys together on a stage or two somewhere this year.

  • VARIOUS ARTISTS - "God Didn't Choose Sides:  Civil War True Stories
    About Real People" (Rural Rhythm Records) : This collection features just what the subtitle says -- songs about real folks, men and women, who were part of the American Civil War.  The songs were mostly written or co-written by a few fine songwriters, including Paula Breedlove and Mark "Brink" Brinkman, and the performers are some great ones, including the Lonesome River Band, Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out, Marty Raybon, and a few others.

This year, I feel the need to include a couple of "Honorable Mention" selections on my list:  

  • THE EXPEDITION SHOW - "Stormy Horizons" (Mountain Fever Records)
  • FLATT LONESOME - "Flatt Lonesome" (Pisgah Ridge)
  • THE SPINNEY BROTHERS - "No Borders" (Mountain Fever Records)

Looking forward to hearing more wonderful Bluegrass in 2014 -- hoping you are, too!  

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