Volume Five – Milestones

Recorded, Mixed and Mastered at Mountain Fever Studios / Willis, VA by Aaron Ramsey
Executive Producer: Mark Hodges

Fresh off the win of TWO International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Awards, Volume Five has emerged with new music being released on Mountain Fever Records today. “Now That’s a Song” is the first single from an upcoming album due early next year.

Founded by Glen Harrell (fiddle & vocals), Volume Five includes the talents of Patton Wages (banjo & vocals), Colby Laney (guitar & vocals), Chris Williamson (bass & vocals), and Jacob Burleson (mandolin & vocals). These five musicians together blend into a band with true and proven staying power. With countless IBMA, SPBGMA, and Dove Award nominations to their credit, the band walked away with IBMA’s Emerging Artist of the Year and Song of the Year honors just last month in Raleigh, NC. Their previous album, Drifter, received rave reviews, produced several charting singles, and hit Billboard’s Top 5 Best-Selling Bluegrass Albums chart.

With their career moving with an upward trajectory, Volume Five is coming out of the gate strong with “Now That’s A Song,” the first single from their new album. “I had been looking for a good uptempo song and contacted Bob Minner to see if he had anything fresh to send me,” says Glen Harrell. “This one caught my ear right away and I thought ‘now that’s a song.’ A few moments later, after reaching the chorus, I realized that was actually the title of the song! Bob co-wrote this with Shawn Lane and we think it’s a winner!”

With an unexpected, almost subtle dobro kickoff, “Now That’s A Song” blazes into a spirited, straight-up bluegrass melody supporting a sweet lyric telling of a long-time love. Harrell’s lead vocal moves flawlessly with the words while the makeup of V5 proves exactly why they are turning a genre of music noted for its musical dexterity, on its ear.

Texas Heat – That Hot and Blue Guitar

Bernd Wolf, Texas Heat, February 3, 2018

I really have to tell you all about our new album, “That Hot And Blue Guitar”. We’ll release it on Friday, February 23, 2018. It’ll almost coincide with Johnny Cash’s birthday on February 26, but that is not intentional. It just so happens, even though this is an album about Johnny Cash. But let’s start at the beginning.

“There’s this great studio around the corner from where I live. I’d like to record a band there. How about it, Bernd?” These may have not been the exact words, but that’s how it all started. My friend Danny Hendriks, now formerly frontman and lead singer of the Music Road Pilots, started talking to me about “this studio”. De Moor Studios in Wijchen in the Netherlands, that’s what he was talking about. Texas Heat hadn’t recorded anything in years, and all our old CDs were long sold out, and I wasn’t allowed to have them repressed or use the recordings in any form. Since these were all my songs, though, songs I had written, I could always go back and record them again. This was the time. I thought we needed a PureCASH album to sell at our shows, and get this Johnny Cash theme done and settled to be able to move forward. So, with a lot of planning and checking different schedules, we went to Wijchen in November. It hurt to not be able to see my son Dean on his birthday, the first time ever in 17 years, but it was the only weekend that worked. So Elli, Jens, Gunnar and myself hit the road and drove to Wijchen. We checked into our B&B somewhere in the vicinity, and with great excitement, we drove over to the studio. Danny greeted us and introduced us to the studio owner, Jules Peters. What a nice guy! And looking around the recording room, I knew this was gonna be great if we managed to play well. Three days… well, two and a half, actually, of hard work lay ahead. Sunday at around 6pm, we stopped the session. We had recorded all eleven songs with the full band, worked on individual tracks here and there, recorded some extra guitars and left the rest for another weekend. We had to record the vocals and record some more guitars. We went home tired and happy, knowing there was more hard work waiting in the future. There was one moment on this weekend where I knew that the album was going to be great. Danny and I listened to “Etta’s Tune”, a song written by Rosanne Cash and John Leventhal about Etta and Marshall Grant that we recorded for this album, when Elli came into the control room and said, “Is this us? Really? Cool!” From the very first note on that we recorded, I knew Danny was the right guy to record us.

Two months later, in January 2018, Elli and I drove out to that area again to record the remaining guitars and all the vocals (we had recorded scratch vocals while recording the band, of course). Saturday morning, we started the second round of recordings in the attic of Danny’s house. The guitars came in great, a little editing here and there, and then it was time to start singing. Danny had a number of great studio mics. We tested them all, recorded some lines and compared, then made a decision as to who would sing through which microphone. The fun we had recording the band in November was at least repeated, if not doubled. Three singers… three Country singers, that is, supporting each other to get the timings, the phasings, the notes, the sound and, most importantly, the emotions down on tape… ah, excuse me, hard disc. If I hadn’t experienced it in November, it would have become more than obvious here what a hard worker with great ears Danny is. What a pleasure to work with him! We ended up getting everything recorded by Sunday night. Erwin Van De Ven, a supernice guy, great Bluegrass picker and great repairsman, dropped by on Sunday to bring Danny a guitar he had worked on. And since he brought his mandolin, we thought there certainly was room on our record for a Gibson F5. You can hear him beautify “Redemption Day”, a Sheryl Crow song that we arranged the Texas Heat way. It now has a certain Bluegrass touch. A Gibson F5 and a Fender Tele on the same song, that’s as close as I could come to also salute my other hero, Marty Stuart.

Going home that night, I knew I could have recorded the one or other extra guitar here and there, but the album was really done. Mixing was next, and sending tracks back and forth by Whatsapp sure is a modern way of working together. And I was yet to get in touch with the last person missing in this puzzle, and to say the best was saved for last would not be fair towards Danny and Erwin and my band, but Dion Vermaes sure was worth the wait. Dion mastered our album at De Moor Studios, and, once again, what a supernice and super talented guy he is! Make no mistakes about all this – it was our good, no… our dear friend Danny Hendriks who coordinated all these people and the whole timeline. About a week ago, after two weeks of mixing and talking back and forth, making some suttle and some not so suttle changes, adding reverb here and there, talking about differences in sounds, moving instruments in the mix from the right to the left and back again, finding a guitar missing I wanted to record but forgot to, making a change that makes up for that missing guitar, I had to make a decision in what order I’d want the songs. Elli and I found the right order, I guess. There is no other possible order.

So, finally, three days ago, I received the masters, and I’m happy. The album sounds great! It is way about time to thank Danny Hendriks for his hard work, patience, know-how, his perfect coordination, his friendship and all the fun we had! If you want to record a great record, you should go and contact Danny and his company For The Record Music. More thanks go out to Jessie, Danny’s wonderful wife, for her great hospitality. To Jules Peters at De Moor Studios: I hope YOU are satisfied with our results! Your studio is a great place, my friend! Thanks for inviting us and letting us put some serious boom-chicka-boom through your facility!  To Erwin Van De Ven: thanks for stopping by and putting some of your talent into our record! And thanks for taking care of my boxes. Finally, to Dion Vermaes: Thanks for your talent and for putting the right finishing touches to our record! To you all: We’ll be back!

One last word: These songs, at least eight of them, are a piece of my heart. I’m proud of these songs, I’m proud of these recordings, I’m proud of my band! Please support us and everybody involved in this project by buying this record. Support independent musicians and all these extremely talented people involved in their projects!

Midnight Skyracer – Fire

The reservoir of talent on the current acoustic-folk-bluegrass scene seems nigh bottomless!…  Those cheeky Carrivick Sisters Charlotte and Laura seem to crop up everywhere these days, notably in newgrass-contemporary-flavoured quartet Cardboard Fox (who’ve just released their second album Topspin), and this fresh-sounding all-female quintet is yet another string to their bows (so to speak).

Here in this sparky new “girl-power bluegrass” outfit Laura and Charlotte are teamed up with virtuoso banjoist Tabitha Agnew and mandolinist Leanne Thorose – both of whom also sing (and how!) – and double bass player Eleanor Wilkie (who doesn’t sing, but as it turns out has also written some of the songs for this debut Midnight Skyracer album).

 

High-energy playing, characterful and strongly individual solo and harmony singing, high-class original songwriting, and a real talent for cutting through to the core of old-time bluegrass standards like Hazel Dickens’ Working Girl Blues (and that one’s a blinder!) – well what more could you want? Just get the opening track, Leanne’s Fuel To My Fire, slotted into the player, and feel the hard, tough, gritty energy she voices, set to one of the most driven, motoring rhythms you can imagine, not a beat or note missed – wow!

Leanne’s gutsy, commanding voice takes the lead on five tracks; Tabitha’s altogether gentler vocal presence (equally effective in its own way) leads on three, and Laura on just one (an impeccably-harmonised, true-hearted cover of the gorgeous Bill Monroe number Sitting Alone In The Moonlight). As for the remaining track, well you can tell by its title that Spinous Shark, is gonna be an edgy instrumental tour-de-force – and so it proves. In fact, it’s a surprise not to find at least a couple more instrumental cuts here, given the superlative chops on display (but then again, you could say that the lasses’ proficiency isn’t strictly On Display but just part of their furniture and the air that they breathe!).

 

The disc’s menu and careful sequencing both celebrate and showcase the expressive variety and individuality of the participants. But even so, you can’t fail to sit there open-mouthed at the astounding dexterity of the playing, which is brilliant even by championship-standard bluegrass standards – for there’s sensitivity in shading and dynamic balance too alongside and inside the high-octane note-spinning virtuosity. You just can’t believe the band’s been together barely a year!  Yeah, I gotta say it, this CD is tremendous.

Tour Dates

5TH MAY • CROSSOVER FESTIVAL • CONGLETON, CHESHIRE

8TH MAY • SUDHAUS • TÜBINGEN, GERMANY

9TH MAY • FABRIKBEITZ • WÄDENSWIL, SWITZERLAND

11TH MAY • JENAER FRÜHLINGSMARKT • JENA, GERMANY

12TH MAY • PRIVATE CONCERT • BÖLLENBORN, GERMANY

13TH MAY • WODAN HALLE • FREIBURG, GERMANY

14TH MAY • KAUFMÄNNISCHE SCHULE – NEUBAU • BAD URACH, GERMANY

15TH MAY • NEUE WELT • INGOLSTADT, GERMANY

16TH MAY • RATTLESNAKE SALOON • MÜNCHEN, GERMANY

17TH MAY • CLUBHEIM • VÖHRINGEN-ILLERBERG, GERMANY

18TH MAY • SCHWIIZER PÖSCHTLI • RIFFERSWIL, SWITZERLAND

19TH MAY • SPRING BLUEGRASS FESTIVAL • WILLISAU, SWITZERLAND

27TH JUNE • BURNETT’S HILL CHAPEL • MARTLETWY, PEMBROKESHIRE

28TH JUNE • LYCEUM FOLK CLUB • NEWPORT, GWENT

29TH JUNE • SPARC THEATRE • BISHOPS CASTLE, SHROPSHIRE

30TH JUNE • MUSIC AT THE BUILDINGS • ASHINGTON, WEST SUSSEX

1ST JULY • WHITSTABLE SESSIONS • WHISTSTABLE, KENT

2ND JULY • THE HARRISON • KINGS CROSS, LONDON

3RD JULY • DARTFORD FOLK CLUB • DARTFORD, KENT

4TH JULY • THE MUSICIAN • LEICESTER, LEICESTERSHIRE

6TH JULY • PRIDDY FOLK FESTIVAL • PRIDDY, SOMERSET

7TH JULY • ABBOTSBURY FESTIVAL • ABBOTSBURY, DORSET

9TH JULY • THE BELL INN • BATH, SOMERSET

15TH JULY • FOLK BY THE OAK • HATFIELD HOUSE, HERTFORDSHIRE

27TH JULY • BEER AND BLUEGRASS • POOLE, DORSET

10TH AUGUST • CROPREDY FESTIVAL • CROPREDY, OXFORDSHIRE

19TH AUGUST • PURBECK VALLEY FOLK FESTIVAL • HARMAN’S CROSS, DORSET

24TH AUGUST • SHREWSBURY FOLK FESTIVAL • SHREWSBURY, SHROPSHIRE

25TH AUGUST • TWINWOOD FESTIVAL • TWINWOOD. BEDFORDSHIRE

30TH AUGUST • UPWOOD VILLAGE HALL • UPWOOD, CAMBRIDGESHIRE

6TH OCTOBER • DERBY FOLK FESTIVAL • DERBY, DERBYSHIRE

Forest Black – I Just Wanted You To Know

A call back to previous eras of country music.

Album Notes
This album is mostly a tribute to a late friend of mine, Raymond “Chock” Chitty. He wrote 2 songs featuring on this album, the primary one being the title track. This album is hopefully going to be another catalyst to cause a return to form in country music. While I believe country music is starting a return to glory, beginning with recent rise to fame of Chris Stapleton, I hope to attribute to this. I believe that traditional country music has always had more soul and substance, and I hope that this album has that for y’all to enjoy.

Jorge Blidner – South Of The South

Modern Folk with romance, social commentary and historical influences.

Emm Gryner – Only of Earth

Emm Gryner is known for her typical folk pop stylings. Her latest project has a little divergence from the norm. It   s a 3-part series known as Only of Earth. It will be accompanied by graphic novels and other literature to really set the scene of what Gryner is going for.

The project begins with Days of Games. It delivers a very different feel than what Gryner fans are used to. The inspiration comes from the birth of a child, the death of the iconic David Bowie, and the passing of Greg Lowe. All of these can be felt throughout the album. A former member of David Bowie   s band, Gryner goes for a style much more similar to his, using heavy rock guitar riffs, usually played by Greg Lowe, and adding a synthesizer to give it a more space adventure feel.  The guitar work fits in perfectly with the rock stylings of the    70s and    80s, in a form that would make Bowie proud.

Imagination    is the first single from the album and helps to remind the listener that this is a science fiction album. The whole album really tells a story, and it is in full swing by the time    A Mission    rolls around. It has a beautiful guitar intro that pairs perfectly with  Gryner   s voice. Lowe   s guitar work comes through though and provides for the serious tone of what Gryner is saying. He helps to establish the idea of the mission by showing his guitar work to add a dangerous factor, but it also feels triumphant. This means that the mission Gryner is singing about will be accomplished, though it may be difficult.

The Spark    begins with a powerful guitar solo that rolls right into a rock riff that can   t be easily forgotten. This song actually seems to feel a lot like    War Pigs    by Black Sabbath. It does so by splitting up lines in the verse with a heavy guitar part and impressive guitar soloing throughout. Gryner   s voice just adds to the feel of a powerful classic rock sound because of the reverb added to it.

Though Days of Games is a different take to what Gryner is usually putting out, it still has some legs to stand on. It escapes the folk genre completely, but it does a very good job as making an appearance as a rock album with a very classic vibe.

Darlingside – Extralife

Darlingside first gained broad notice with 2015’s Birds Say. On that album, bassist Dave Senft, guitarist/banjoist Don Mitchell, violinist/mandolinist Auyon Mukharji, and cellist/guitarist Harris Paseltiner fused glorious vocal harmonies that evoked classic Beach Boys and Crosby, Still & Nash to a collection of songs that evoked a sometimes melancholy nostalgia. Follow up Extralife finds the band facing forward to address the troubled present and uncertainties of future via a unique impressionistic twist: they take the staid simile of life as a video game and ramp it full of apocalyptic anxiety to create something utterly fresh and revelatory.

Starting with the silly existentialism of Mario trapped in his own game, the concept of an “extra life” becomes irradiated with potential as the album progresses to reveal the darkness beneath the beauty of the band’s combined voices.” It’s over now,” they sing in the album opener, “The world has flattened down.” Envisioning a multi-leveled existence modeled upon a Mario Brothers or Donkey Kong world, God becomes the “Super conductor up in the sky” rewarding “Extralife”. It’s a surprisingly effective metaphor, these “Push-on clouds” that “reset the sky”, since eschatological apocalypse is not simply an ending; rather, it is a global cleansing so that the world may be reborn again anew.

Apocalyptic images dominate the album’s lyrics.We wait for the end like dinosaurs watching the meteor’s approach in “Singularity”: “Someday a shooting star is gonna shoot me down / Burn these high rises back into a ghost town.” In the beautiful, poetically framed “Hold Your Head Up High”, life is but a “let-go-of balloon”. Meanwhile “Bikini snow (a 1950’s-era euphemism for fallout from atomic bomb testing) burns like acetylene under our feet” as “Our future moment disappears” in “Futures” and, in a nod to Yeats’ “Second Coming” with its “rough beast slouching towards Bethlehem to be born”, we hear that “Something is waking on ‘Indian Orchard Road’.”

But, as with any truly apocalyptic vision, all the uncertainty, all the fear, all of the as-yet-to-come suffering is in the service of rebirth: prophecy of not just an end but a new beginning to follow. Even as we’re told of our disappearing “Futures”, we are reassured by a chorus of “it’s not ever too late.” “Eschaton” amplifies the video game metaphor with its electronic chirps and pulses, yet offers the millennial reassurance that “No matter what we’ve been / We are the upshot now.” Heavenly visions of Lindisfarne follow accompanied by equally angelic voices. Finally, we are reassured that “We are a long way from the best of the best of times”, a central component of any apocalyptic prophecy, the promise of a rapturous rebirth or bounty following a period of tribulation.

Mukharji describes the inspiration of the new album’s title and theme as “a life beyond where we are now, whether that’s a brand new thing, a rebirth, or just a new version of ourselves as we move forward.”Extralife is a record infused with apocalyptic dread, a collection of campfire sing-alongs for the end of days. As well, it’s an oddly beautiful record, comfortable in its unsettling contemplations and rapturous.

Ruby Boots – Don’t Talk About It

A natural chanteuse who possesses just the right blend of sass and savvy, Aussie-born singer Ruby Boots (aka Rebecca Louise “Bex” Chilcott) was a seeker from early on. After leaving home at the age of 16, she took off for the outer reaches of Australia’s west coast, eventually landing a job on a pearl fishing trawler. It was there where she started dabbling in guitar, and eventually writing songs. After adopting a new name, she embarked on a career that’s brought her numerous awards and a fan following as well.

Chilcott, or Ms. Boots if you will, previously released three EPs and a full length debut she christened Solitude. However, her new album, the tellingly named Don’t Talk About It, handily elevates her standing. A set of songs that dwell on the wreckage left in the wake of romance, it pointedly addresses those prone to all sorts of sexual manipulation. Granted, that kind of abuse is nothing new, but in view of recent headlines, the focus Boots finds here seems especially apt.

Boots is aided in her efforts by the astute backing of the band Texas Gentlemen and support from a kindred spirit, Nikki Lane, who co-wrote the title track and provides the backing vocal. However, the focus remains wholly on Boots throughout, thanks to a saucy delivery that turns each song into a clear statement of purpose. “Don’t Talk About It” offers an especially strong example of her swagger and defiance. The determined “I’ll Make It Through,” has her declaring “I’m more than you can handle,” turning a song about survival into a hard won ode to independence.

To be sure, these songs never find Boots in retreat. If her attitude is any indication, she remains steadfast and undaunted. “Infatuation,” “It’s So Cruel” and “Easy Way Out” come across with drive and insistence, ample indication that she’s not about to back down. Happily, she’s willing to lure her lover by offering assurance as well. “I am a believer, standing strong by your side, I’m a hand to hold on to when its too hard to climb,” she declares on the spare “I Am A Woman.” Unlike the defiance Helen Reddy once railed about on her similarly-named song, this is one instance where Boots finds no need to roar.

Ironically, the relatively subdued song that ends the set, “Don’t Give a Damn,” is also the most emphatic. Boots rebukes an unfaithful lover while dishing out her disdain. As it climbs to its crescendo, it becomes increasingly clear that Don’t Talk About It makes certain statements that definitely need to be said.

Sunny War – With the Sun

Sunny War’s musical influences are wide-ranging. Nashville-born and Venice Beach, CA-based, War spent her childhood moving frequently, and lived on the streets as a teenager, busking and playing in punk bands. Thanks to her grandmother, she cultivated a deep appreciation of the blues, and still loves the bluegrass and old country music of her birthplace. All of this subtly makes its way into her songwriting and playing on With the Sun.

War’s singing style is more than a little reminiscent of Joan Armatrading (whom she claims as an influence, alongside Elizabeth Cotton and Mississippi John Hurt), only softer and warmer. Her lush, finger-picked acoustic guitar combines a number of traditions: she refers to her style as  “crab-claw picking,” borrowed from the banjo, but her generous use of hammer-ons and pull-offs occasionally conjures Mali’s guitar great, Boubacar Traoré.

There isn’t really a song on the album that could be described as “blues,” but there are nods to the tradition throughout, in chords, vocal inflection and lyrical themes. War has a way of tackling the truly depressing without actually sounding depressing: alcoholism (“Gotta Live It”), anti-black police brutality (“I’m Human”), domestic abuse (“Violent”), and classic love and loss (“Finn”). She also manages to throw in the odd vulgarity that, thanks to her velvet delivery, doesn’t even come across as vulgar.

While War’s singing and guitar playing is always front and centre, the album includes some great supporting instrumentation. “With the Sun” features Nick Drake-esque interplay between piano and guitar, and Nikita Sorokin’s fiddle playing  adds colour throughout, but is especially present on the raucous stomp-and-clap number, “Til I’m Dead.” “The Change You Make” juxtaposes unexpectedly ominous chord changes with the carefree sound of children playing in a schoolyard, and “Come Back” pairs War’s earthy voice and guitar with the smooth sheen of a full string section.

Sunny War’s diverse influences come together to produce something all her own, and well worth the attention she’s been receiving. Her sound is unapologetically black and female, and With the Sun is devastatingly beautiful without even trying to be pretty. It’s the kind of music 2018 desperately needs.

Tommy DarDar – Big Daddy Gumbo

Like so many albums I receive I’d not heard of Tommy Dardar before receiving this album; but why would I? He played in and fronted bands in and around South Louisiana for aeons but sadly died in 2017 before these tracks originally recorded in 2001 would ever be released.
But after reading the accompanying Press Release and listening to the loving way his friends and family have re-worked and polished those recordings I really wish I could have not just seen him playing live; but even met the guy as he sounds a fascinating character.
I’m pretty sure the album artwork would have caught my eye in a record shop and if the man behind the counter played track #1 It’s Good To Be King I would gratefully have shelled out the £10 or so to buy whatever came next.

That song is an absolute doozy; opening with some stinging guitar from Johnny Lee Schell and when Tommy’s rich voice and most blues-wailin’ harmonica come in I knew instantly that this was music I would absolutely luuurve.
Oh boy, oh boy….oh boy songs like Baby I Can Tell and Shake a Leg are the type of Rocking Blues music fans like me fantasise about hearing coming from a downtown club somewhere South of the Mason-Dixon line while on holiday.
Then there is Dangerous Woman and C’mon Second Line; oohheee……are these cool or what? Dardar and friends produce the musical sounds that Van Morrison must hear in his head before he goes into a studio; but has failed to reproduce for 30+ years #fact.
Favourite track? How am I supposed to choose only one from this parcel of musical gems; but choose I must.
Perhaps the Honky-Tonk of Let’s Go Back to New Orleans; featuring the legendary Jon Cleary on piano and Tommy Dardar at his crooning best or will it be the funklicious Big Daddy Gumbo which closes the proceeding with even more sizzling guitar and saxophone than a man my age can handle; and don’t get me started on those sexy backing singers!
But I’m going for In My Mind; a slow burning sensual ballad that will bring tears to a glass eye and a song Tommy Dardar can proudly leave as his finest legacy, as is the record itself.