The Isaacs – Favorites Revisited By Request

The intricate, family harmonies of The Isaacs are a benchmark phenomenon throughout the gospel, country and bluegrass communities. This all-new recording showcases those GRAMMY®-nominated blends as Sonya, Becky, Ben and Lily have re-recorded some of the classic, best-loved songs of their award-winning careers.

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.

The Price Sisters – A Heart Never Knows

Recorded last summer in Nashville, A Heart Never Knows combines The Price Sisters’ talents with producer Bil VornDick and performances from a group of notable musicians including Bryan Sutton, Charlie Cushman, Mike Bub, Dennis Crouch, Alan Bartram, Ruth McLain, and Justin Moses. The album offers a satisfying mix of obscure gems from pioneers such as the Carter Family and the Delmore Brothers, coupled with stunning new songs from some of today’s top songwriters.

At just twenty-three years old, twin sisters Lauren and Leanna Price are poised to become the torchbearers for traditional bluegrass as it enters its eighth decade. While their playing is thoroughly rooted in the classic style of Bill Monroe, their smooth, polished sibling vocal harmonies infuse the music with a fresh, contemporary appeal.

With well-chosen songs, creative arrangements, impeccable musicianship and stellar vocal harmonies, A Heart Never Knows confirms that The Price Sisters have arrived, and that the future of bluegrass is in good hands!

Wood & Wire – North Of Despair

You can’t rightly say that bluegrass bands have never gone out of style, but they’ve certainly never gone away – even if they’re not as popular as they once were. Wood & Wire is a band that will make you glad bluegrass has never gone away.

It doesn’t take long to realize that this is traditional bluegrass. “Eliza” is a song that features some amazing picking – just like you hear from classic bluegrass acts like Ralph Stanley and The Clinch Mountain Boys. If the picking in this song doesn’t get you stomping your feet, it’s hard to know what will. The vocals also bring classic bluegrass to mind. It’s hard not to think of “Black-Eyed Susie” when you hear the chorus of this song.

One thing that has always been a staple of bluegrass is an instrumental song that allows all the band members to showcase their considerable skills. “Summertime Rolls” is one of the instrumental songs on this album, and you can’t help but be impressed with the picking. When you listen to the banjo and mandolin in particular, it’s hard to imagine fingers moving that quickly. Meanwhile, the bass player drives the song with a thumping bass line. Don’t be surprised if you’re out of breath just listening to this one. “Wingding” is another instrumental showcase for the band, It may not be as fast in tempo as “Summertime Rolls”, but it still shows what all the band members can do. It’s pretty difficult to stay still when you hear this one – especially when you hear the bass line.

“Just Don’t Make ’em” is another song that is incredibly impressive. The lyrics are about someone’s dad who would fix any broken thing by himself, and another man that built his own house by himself. As good as the lyrics are, the banjo is really the thing that grabs your attention. Throughout the song, Trevor Smith plays at a speed that is hard to comprehend. Even without seeing his hands, you know they were moving at an incredible speed when this song was recorded.

Like most traditional bluegrass, this album features a lot of short songs. It contains 11 songs, but only lasts for 39 minutes, which leaves you wanting more of the amazing picking and harmony vocals. If you’re a fan of bluegrass, this is an album you should add to your collection.

Mary Marecek – Cotton Flowers

Bluegrass and gospel songs that capture the beauty of the farm life.
Album Notes
These original songs from the heart serve to share my love of God and the farm life through song. The farm and ranch life provides a great environment for writing music. I feel close to God when I’m surrounded by the land. My songs were written while driving the tractor or sitting on the porch in the evening. My hope is that these songs will uplift and inspire the listener.
“Rockin’ in The Cradle” is a song about driving the tractor
“I Love It When He Prays” captures the beauty of prayer in families.
“My Tractor’s Got A Soul” reached out to all romantics and classic tractor enthusiasts
“I Love To Pray” is a catchy gospel song that is good for church services.
“Love Letter” is written for a very special little girl named Carolinie who was and lost her adopted Mommy to heart failure when she was just 6 years old. My hope and prayer is that this song will restore the souls of all listeners.
“Hold Me In Your Heart” came to me one morning as a prayer put to song.
“Prayer Is Just A Song Away” is a gospel medley with an original chorus that is a hand-clapping, foot-stomper.
“Cotton Flowers” is an intimate song about a woman reaching out to God in song her desire to live the farm life.
“Wonderful Morning” is about a married couple’s appreciation of each other on a rainy morning. 

Heath Loy – Drakesville

An album filled with traditional and contemporary bluegrass/country music.

Drakesville features Minnesota musician, Heath Loy, on the banjo. Stellar cover tunes along with fresh originals make this album a must have… played and sung by some of the finest bluegrass musicians around. Recorded at Slack Key Studio in Nashville TN.

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

Tennessee Jed – Pimpgrass

Lest anyone dare forget, bluegrass music has a soul of its own. Granted, it differs from what’s normally associated with the standard rhythm n’ blues, although the same fervor can be found in the sweep and strum of banjos, fiddles and mandolin, along with the high harmonies that wail above the fray.

Tennessee Jed knows that all too well, and on Pimpgrass, his fifth album to date, he shares those sentiments in ways that are both expected and beyond the norm. The soaring sentiments of the album opener, Over the Mountain, offers the initial indication, a wistful ballad expressing the draw of home and the weariness of the road. The heartfelt lament, Can’t Get There From Here, continues on that tack, fully affirming Jed’s genuine sense of longing for those things that often lie just beyond our reach, just as the gritty work song, Sunup ‘Til Sundown,emphasizes the struggles of everyday existence. Despite his unruly-looking demeanor — the back photo of the CD cover shows him about to smash his guitar against an abandoned bus — his soulful spirit is never in doubt.

If that was the only hint of sentiment, it would definitely be enough. Yet along with the ramble and rumble of high lonesome ballads like The Train for to Carry Me Home, the driving sounds of Soul-Country Pimpgrass, and the astute and assertive instrumental, Opie’s Intermezzo, Jed adds some surprising cover songs that further assert his soulful stance. One wouldn’t expect to hear the Isley Brothers classic Shout parlayed by a group of professional pickers, but here it isn’t out of place, its exuberant exhortations fully fleshed out by bluegrass regalia. Likewise, when Jed and company tackle Kiss, the remarkable barnburner from Prince, the fusion of two genres stays surprisingly in sync. To his credit however, Jed doesn’t feel inclined to share his soul merely through the efforts of others; when he sings in his upper register on his own original offering, Cells, he soars like a man well able to rely on a faithful falsetto.

Credit too a reliable backing band that’s easily able to navigate those shifts in style. By now, Tennessee Jed’s reputation is such that he’s able to attract an exceptional group of players, among them Scott Vestal on banjo, Todd Parks on bass, fiddler and backing vocalist Luke Bulla, Josh Shilling of Mountain Heart playing keys, Andy Hall of the Infamous Stringdusters contributing dobro, and three members of the Daily & Vincent band fleshing out the rest. It’s an exceptional ensemble, and one well equipped to operate in Jed’s jurisdiction.

Now more than ever, breaking down barriers is of prime importance. Credit Tennessee Jed with journeying to those unlikely realms and finding a fit once he arrives.

Junior Sisk – A Brand New Shade Of Blue

When Junior Sisk decides to take a step back and assess his
musical direction, one must never question his motives again.
Simply put, Brand New Shade Of Blue is the record Junior has
been wanting, needing to make for years. “When I first started
performing professionally, my goal was always to present
traditional bluegrass,” says Junior. “With the loss of so many great,
traditional Bluegrass artists of late—Ralph Stanley, James King,
Dave Evans, and Melvin Goins—I really want to make a strong
effort to keep their sound alive, as well.” That opportunity
presented itself organically when Junior’s long-time band,
Ramblers Choice, had a change in personnel at the end of 2017.
“When Jason Davis and Kameron Keller moved on to create a
new band, I really felt like it was the perfect opportunity to regroup
and put more focus on my original goal. I’ve had these songs
stashed away for a while and they were perfect for this record.
They are modern songs featuring a traditional vocal treatment.”
Junior may very well have made one of this year’s best albums,
possibly the best of his career, with Brand New Shade Of Blue.

To do so, he relied on the help of some stellar vocalists who fit his
own style perfectly. Del McCoury sings tenor on “The Guilt Was
Gone,” a sure-fire vocal collaboration that is well overdue. The
sweet songbird voice of Heather Berry Mabe melds with Junior’s
Appalachian sound like none other and creates a match made in
heaven for a duet on “Backwards And Forwards.” And who better
to bring a soulful duet vocal on “God Did Good” than Marty
Raybon with his brother Tim joining in to create a three part
harmony structure. Songwriting stalwart Tim Massey, who has
contributed several great tunes to Junior’s repertoire over the
years, sang tenor on his self-penned “Honey Do List.” And another
award-winning writer, Daniel Salyer, equally known for his high
lonesome sound, rounds out the bulk of the harmony on the
project. But one of the best collaborations is that of Junior and The
Lost And Found’s Allen Mills on “By Now I Would Be Dead.” Noone
performs tongue-in-cheek songs better than Allen Mills and
bringing him into the mix on this song is pure genius. But for all the
highlight tracks featuring guests that make this album special, the
standout star continues to be Junior with his heart for a song that
shows every time he opens his mouth to sing a note. Brand New
Shade Of Blue is quintessential Junior Sisk music and an album
that bluegrass enthusiasts will no doubt embrace with open arms.
Friends, Junior Sisk is back!

Crow Quill Night Owls – Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams

This tremendously authentic core trio are supplemented by various other musicians on an album that is rooted in not only raw old time string band music but also what at that time was referred to as race music and even a little jazz. Whilst they are no respecters of generic boundaries there is obviously a huge amount of respect for the music of the best part of a century ago. They have the feel of a jug band wrapped up in a little vaudeville and a large dose of hillbilly that ensures they are blended into a pretty much unique and highly skilled band. You can t really take such diverse musical styles and make them fit your aims unless you have a love and a natural feel for those old styles.

This is the third album by the band and whilst it s always nice to report a musical progression in any artists subsequent releases this one is not a huge improvement, simply because the first two, which I only aquired recently, were so impressive that I couldn t see how they could be improved upon. This new recording does up the quality by a small notch and whilst I will probably play it on and off till doomsday the same applies to those previous two, with all three being so good that if you enjoy one you really need to get the other two as well!
The song writing credits range from traditional to the Memphis Jug Band, also including Georgia Tom/Tampa Red, Jelly Roll Morton, Hammie Nixon and plenty of old string band input from the likes of the Dallas String Band. As I said earlier, plenty of diversity!
The core band consists of Kit “Stymee” Stovepipe on lead vocals, national resophonic guitar, harmonica, washboard, kazoo, wash tub bass, tenor banjo and jug! He is more than ably assisted by Windy City Alex who plays tenor banjo, banjo-lele and kazoo as well as vocals and Baylin Adaheer is on wash tub bass, vocal, kazoo and banjo-lele. Quite a mix of instruments but one that is played with huge skill and feeling, something that can be applied to everything on their albums, almost as if they have never heard any other music. Added to these three are Too Tight Devin Champlin on mandolinetto, fiddle and backing vocals, Lucas Hicks, suitcase percussion, washboard, spoons and bones, Itchy Ribs Robinson, Washboard Syncopations and Jerron Paxton plays piano and pants! As you can see from that little lot, a mix of instruments that we are quite unfamiliar with in this 21st century but played and arranged with a mastery that enables them to perform convincingly within any of the old generic styles they choose. There is no holding back on this album, everything is played with total commitment and the often casual atmosphere they generate just adds to the authority and no small amount of originality that they bring to these old
songs.
There are twenty four tracks on this album that I seem to have on repeat play most of the time, but of those twenty four, nine are short between song links, some of which are humourous. I don t usually like to hear this in an
album and whilst this recording doesn t actually benefit from them it certainly does no harm to the ages old atmosphere. Stymee s vocals are raw and untutored but also expressive as well as essential to this musical blend,
with the female harmonies bringing even more atmosphere to the songs, in much the same way as the blend of Travis and Alison Ward s harmonies do in Hillfolk Noir. There are other similarities between the two trio s, although Crow Quill Night Owls have an added rawness that really is an evocation of the old time string bands.
Whilst this is certainly not a comedy record, humour is never too far away from this bands music as evidenced by All Gone Now, a darkly humourous tale with Stymee s lead vocal aided by a slightly discordant female harmony that gives the song even more of an old timey atmosphere, supported by fiddle, banjo, resonator guitar and bass.Sugar Babe I m Leaving has a nice banjo, resonator guitar, bass and harmonica start before Stymee s raw untutored vocals come in, with the two women on harmonies and the addition of kazoo amongst other things on this old string band song written by Sunny Clapp and Sol Lewis. On The Road Again is probably the rawest most fiery version of this classic song I ve ever heard, contrasting nicely with the following, I Used To Call Her Baby, an authentic sounding old Dallas String Band song that blends a vaudevillian atmosphere into the mix! New Lina Blues is a hard driving up tempo song with some unusual sounds and instrumental blends on a tale that has a light hearted early trad jazz feel that harks back to the 1920s, whilst Caveman Blues is a kazoo and harmonica propelled Memphis Jug Band song with a strong female lead vocal, barrel house piano sound and strong bass. The closing song is Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams an album highlight and title track on this old jazz song written by Errol Garner and Lionel Hampton bringing this hugely entertaining album to a natural conclusion.
If you have any feeling for roots musical tradition you really should give this band a listen. Whilst they play within the old time tradition they do actually bring an excellent level of originality to not only hillbilly music but also to the blues, jazz and vaudevillian branches, but always with their own individuality shining through and thus blending these disparate elements into a unique genre of their own making.