Thursday, November 15, 2012

CD REVIEW - Siamese Cousins - 2 Chairs, No Waiting

By: W.J. Hallock

Siamese Cousins - 2 Chairs, No Waiting

Released: Sept. 2012

Label: Mountain Roads Recordings

I have been very lucky since Brian McNeal asked me to start reviewing new bluegrass CD releases for Prescription Bluegrass. My intake of new music has increased drastically! And I’ve been at it long enough now that I’m starting to do follow up’s on previous reviews and artists, which only adds to the pleasure.

Such was the case when I received a new disc from Mountain Roads Recordings called “2 Chairs, No Waiting” by SIAMESE COUSINS. Edwin Lacy, on vocals and claw hammer banjo, and Scott Freeman on vocals, mandolin, fiddle, guitar and bass, are the “SIAMESE COUSINS” in question. The name comes from the fact that Edwin and Scott have been playing together for so long, in one musical incarnation or another, that they consider themselves “joined at the frets.” NOW I get it! Works for me!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

CD REVIEW – Ry Cooder - Election Special

By Dan King

Ry Cooder - Election Special

Label: Nonesuch Records

Released:  August 2012

Woody Guthrie did it. Pete Seeger did it. Joan Baez did it. Musical artists down through time have enlisted their craft to make a political point or foster social change. August 2012 found Ry Cooder carrying on that tradition with the release of his latest short play CD – “Election Special.”

“Election Special” is a poignant view of political issues that were hot leading up to the 2012 presidential election, many of which promise to hang around if the post-election turmoil is any indication. Within this work, Cooder utilizes traditional roots music instrumentation and his rough but sincere vocal styling to weave his way through nine original compositions that absolutely drip with musical genius and political insight. Hailing from a generation that started off wanting to change the world but somehow got lost along the way, Cooder is as radical and focused as any 60’s cause artist on “Election Special.”

Thursday, November 1, 2012

CD REVIEW - The Grass Cats - The Mountains My Baby and Me

By: W.J. Hallock

The Grass Cats - The Mountains My Baby and Me

Record Label: New Time Records

Released: July, 2012

     Sometimes I just can’t help myself….. I’ll make sure the CD’s I want to review are all in a neat, orderly pile, and I try soooo hard to listen to them in the order they arrive at my doorstep. I’m a lucky man, there are lots of CD’s to choose from. Then my schedule gets all messed up, because sometimes, one shows up and I’ve already heard some of the artist’s previous music, and I just get nosey. So much for good intentions…….

      The first track that I listened to off  The Grass Cats newest CD, “The Mountains My Baby And Me,” is called LIFE IN THE MINES. I’m a sucker for coal minin’ songs, so I thought I’d check out just this one tune and then get back on schedule. So much for makin’ schedules….. There are seven original songs by Russell Johnson, lead singer and mandolin player, on this thirteen song disc. LIFE IN THE MINES is co-written with Gary Whitt, and it is one dy-no-mite song! A sad, mournful minor key gem with great lyrics, harmony, twin fiddles, dobro and passion in it’s presentation, I was hooked and had to give in and listen to more.  So much for makin’ this CD wait it’s turn…….

Monday, October 22, 2012

CD REVIEW - The Yankee Rebels – Flight of the Phoenix

By: W.J. Hallock

The Yankee Rebels – Flight of the Phoenix

Label: Ampersand Records

Released: August, 2012

If you love three part vocal harmony like I do, then you’re going to love the new CD “Flight Of The Phoenix” by The Yankee Rebels. Their harmony is super! If you love a five piece bluegrass band with traditional instrumentation, you’re going to love it, too.

Their “pickin’” is as good as their singing! They’re good, and they should be….. they’ve been playing together since FOREVER! Open up the liner notes and you’ll find pictures of them when they started in the ‘60’s, more pictures from the 70’s and ‘80’s and right on up to today. This band is obviously committed and dedicated, and from the total sound of this recording, they’re only getting better with time. No stagnation due to longevity here!

Monday, October 1, 2012

CD REVIEW - Ricky Skaggs - Music To My Ears

By: W.J. Hallock

Image634952375350786008Ricky Skaggs - Music To My Ears

Skaggs Family Records

Released Sept. 2012

Ricky Skaggs is one of the most consistently excellent, continually relevant and important artists still passionately making quality music in Nashville today. His ever faithful fan base, his influence on up and coming young musicians, his awards, accolades and number one hits on the charts make his career historic. With his newest release , MUSIC TO MY EARS, it’s obvious that Mr. Skaggs has no plans to just rest on his laurels.

      Produced by Ricky, and recorded at his Skaggs Place Studios, this could be his finest studio work ever. Excellent song choices, top shelf musicianship, a surprise guest that brings HIS A-Game to the project, production that is absolutely dead on and Ricky bringing 150% of his considerable talents to this recording all make it a guaranteed winner.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

CD REVIEW - Byron Berline - Jammin' With Byron

By Dan King

Byron Berline - Jammin' With Byron

Double Stop Music

Released: August, 2012

Byron Berline loves to play the fiddle. You can tell. There is a contagious energy that comes off his strings when he is bowing that sounds simultaneously athletic and poetic. Witness the impressive display of fiddle gymnastics that starts on the first tune of his new CD, “Jammin’ With Byron” and continues all the way through the 22nd and final track.

Twenty-two tunes would amount to an entire recording career for some musicians, but Byron and his large band of fine picking friends have compiled that many on this one single CD. It is a project that seems destined to become a textbook on old-time fiddle playing for generations to come.

Monday, September 17, 2012

CD REVIEW - Geoff Union - Cold As Steel

By: W.J. Hallock

Geoff Union - Cold As Steel

Label: Shining Castle Music
Released: May 2012

Austin, Texas singer/songwriter and guitarist Geoff Union sent me his new solo CD “Cold As Steel,” and my first impression was that instrumentally, this music was some of the best “front porch pickin’” I’d heard in a while. Surrounding himself with some of Austin’s finest musicians, it’s relaxed and comfortable, but still tight and energetic.

Geoff used to be a member of Austin’s hot “Two High String Band,” that at one time included banjo super star Alan Munde. Billy Bright, producer and mandolin player on this project, was also a member of THSB. This recording was done at Billy’s Mando Cave Studio in Wimberley, TX.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

CD REVIEW - The Roys – New Day Dawning

By: W.J. Hallock

The Roys – New Day Dawning

Label: Rural Rhythm
Released: August, 2012

Stop for just a minute and think of all the acts in bluegrass and country music that have been made up of family members….. the Carter Family, the Louvin Brothers, the Whites, the Isaacs, the Stanley Brothers, the Dillards, the Rice Brothers, the Gibson Brothers and so many more….. Now add all the duet partners you can think of into the mix, and it gets even more interesting! Vince and Patty Loveless, Porter and Dolly, Conway and Loretta, Alison and Brad Paisley, Tammy and George, and who could forget Lonzo and Oscar and Homer and Jethro!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

CD REVIEW - Pa’s Fiddle - The Music of America

By: W.J. Hallock

Pa’s Fiddle - The Music of America

Inspired by: the 'Little House On The Prairie' books of Laura Ingalls Wilder

Distributed by: Compass Records

The Little House On The Prairie books of Laura Ingalls Wilder, and the television series starring Michael Landon, are a multi-generational phenomena that have, and will continue to, affect American culture and history in the decades to come. In my own household, our children were raised on a steady diet of the books and the TV show, and their Grand Mother, a Depression era child, loved the show and books as much as the kids did.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

CD REVIEW - Old Crow Medicine Show - Carry Me Back

By: W.J. Hallock

Old Crow Medicine Show - Carry Me Back

Released: July, 2012

My son is an “old soul” when it comes to his musical tastes. The Dead, CCR, Tom Petty, Neil Young….. the sound-track of the 60’s and 70’s suits him just fine. But, he also has an inquisitive and adventurous side that includes all kinds of new music. And when he finds something that he likes, he usually shares it with me, and I end up a fan, too. Such was the case in the Fall of 2009.

We were going to visit him, and there was a concert set for that same week that he insisted we attend. He had seen this group two previous times and wanted us to experience his newest “favorite band of all time!” Always being up for a musical adventure, off we went.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

CD REVIEW - Special Consensus - Scratch Gravel Road

By Dan King

Special Consensus - Scratch Gravel Road

Compass Records
March 2012

Chicago is a town known far and wide for its own special brand of blues. Many icons of the genre were spawned in the windy city including Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, and Howlin’ Wolf. Chicago is also the home of the baseball Cubs who have not won

Monday, July 2, 2012

CD REVIEW - Larry Stephenson - What Really Matters

By: W.J. Hallock

Larry Stephenson - What Really Matters

Compass Records
Released: June, 2012

An old Irish friend of mine from Belfast used to tell me: “Remember son, there’s just no substitute for class.” That thought kept popping into my head as I listened to Larry Stephenson’s new CD, “What Really Matters.” There is not one thing about this CD that isn’t first class, the song selection, the musicianship, the harmonies, the production, the packaging, the liner notes and photos.

ALL of it! It just doesn’t get any better than this folks…. And the reason is, it’s energy is all focused to surround and support THAT voice. That voice that is the very essence of bluegrass COOL. There is not a note out of tune, or out of time, not an inflection that isn’t necessary and the raw emotion is as thick and palpable as whipped cream. No braggadocio, just an honest down to earth conveyance of feeling.

Monday, June 25, 2012

CD REVIEW - The Grascals - Life Finds A Way

By Dan King

The Grascals  - Life Finds A Way

Label: Mountain Home Records
Released: March 2012

On a recent field trip to Zia Records, I discovered two albums in the Bluegrass/Americana section that would fit the criteria for review on Prescription Bluegrass. One was Leonard Cohen’s “Old Ideas” and the other was The Grascals “Life Finds A Way.” I also found a CD by a fellow named Charles Manson in the section, but I’m still not sure if that was some store employees idea of a bad joke, or if perhaps there is a hot new mandolin player on the scene with a very unfortunate name. At any rate, I opted for the Grascal’s latest offering and headed for the checkout.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

CD REVIEW - Bill Evans - In Good Company

By W.J. Hallock

Bill Evans  - In Good Company

Record Label: Native and Fine Records
Released: May 2012

      One quick first listen to this CD was all I was going to have time for….. three hours later I was still at it!   Time flies when you’re havin’ FUN!  Several things became obvious right away. #1. Bill Evans is one of the finest banjo players I’ve ever heard. #2. Bill Evans is every bit as good a song-writer as he is an instrumentalist. #3. Bill must be incredibly intelligent, because he totally understands that by bringing in the hottest musicians to record with, he not only pushes himself to play better, he brings out the very best in the rest of the team. And with twenty six players, what a team it is!

Friday, June 1, 2012

CD REVIEW - Carolina Road - Back To My Roots

By W.J. Hallock

Carolina Road - Back To My Roots

Rural Rhythm Records
Released: August, 2011

A bluegrass band with name recognition, a solid fan base and musical credentials has two choices when it comes time to record a new CD. They can seize the opportunity to spread their wings and fly a little higher. They can go a little farther than normal and test the boundaries of their talents and imagination. They can step up their game and take their career to the next level. They can push the competition to try and keep up with THEIR level of excellence. OR…… they can just pull out the “Formula for Recording Bluegrass Music” text book and follow it word for word and step by obligatory step.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

CD REVIEW - Scenic Roots - Grounded

By Dan King

Scenic Roots - Grounded

Scenic Roots Music  LLC

As a reviewer for Prescription Bluegrass, I receive many album submissions from independent artists hoping to get a favorable review published on their work. Many of them contain admirable efforts, but in the final analysis, fall short.

When I first removed Scenic Roots’ CD “Grounded” from its shipping envelope, I could tell it was going to be different. The CD is very attractively packaged. The case opens into a tri-fold display of information and beautifully laid out graphics.  This is a major league presentation.

Monday, May 14, 2012

CD REVIEW - Steep Canyon Rangers - Nobody Knows You

By Dan King

Steep Canyon Rangers - Nobody Knows You

Rounder Records
Released: April, 2012

Most folks these days have at least a casual awareness of the Steep Canyon Rangers from their affiliation with actor/comedian Steve Martin. The banjo picking wild and crazy guy has been recording and touring with the group for the past few years, and their numerous tour dates and television appearances have introduced them to quite a large audience.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

CD REVIEW - Finnders and Youngberg - fy5

By W.J. Hallock

Finnders and Youngberg  - fy5

Released: 2011

      Colorado was home to me for fifteen years, so the first song, “Red Mountain Pass,” on their latest CD, FY5, by Finnders and Youngberg, caught my attention right away. And after listening, it made me really miss the hi-country….. I can’t even begin to remember the number of times I’ve been over Red Mountain, and Wolf Creek, in a snow storm.  The lyrics of the song definitely brought back some memories. I’ve known the fear of a whiteout blizzard and the terror of not knowing just WHERE the road disappeared to! After the first listen I had to play it again….. and after the third time through, I was a Mike Finders singer/songwriter fan, and a new follower of the music of FY5. And I had only listened to one song!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

CD REVIEW - Bluegrass Martins – World of Our Own

By W.J. Hallock

Bluegrass Martins – World of Our Own

Released:  2011

With the passing of Earl Scruggs, another of the legends of traditional bluegrass music is gone. But, the legacy of all that Earl did for acoustic music in general, and the banjo in particular, is alive, well and prospering.

One listen to “World Of Our Own,” the new CD by The Bluegrass Martins, of Jefferson City, MO, is a testament to what an influence the old “Masters” have been on today’s younger generation of musicians. This family band is doing it’s very best to keep traditional bluegrass music their main focus.

Monday, March 26, 2012

CD REVIEW - Elena Yeung - Dandelion

By W.J. Hallock

Elena Yeung  -  Dandelion

Released: June 2011

I love my “JOB!” And, I know just how Forrest Gump feels concerning a box of chocolates…… I’ll get a new CD in the mail, have not a clue who or what is waiting inside for me, I’ll open it….. and it’ll end up being Christmas morning!!! 

When Elena Yeung’s new CD, “Dandelion,” arrived, it came with a very polite, hand-written request to be reviewed. How nice, in this age of e-mails, texting and twitter to get correspondence personalized in the author’s own hand! A strong, but delicate and legible cursive….. with an attention to detail, etiquette and correctness like I haven’t seen in years. You bet I’ll review it Ms. Yeung!

Monday, March 19, 2012

CD REVIEW - Freeman and Williams - Freeman and Williams

By W.J. Hallock

Freeman and Williams - Freeman and Williams

Label: Mountain Roads Recordings
Released: January 2012

In my humble opinion, some of the finest singers I have ever heard, I heard in church. And I heard them as a little boy sitting on the piano bench next to my Mother as she played all those great old hymns during Sunday morning services. And to my impressionable little ears, she and her three sisters sang the most beautiful four part harmony in the world. To this day, those familial voices are still one of my favorite childhood memories. There is something so uplifting about great singers singing great harmony on a great song.

Monday, March 12, 2012

CD REVIEW - Steve Spurgin - Past Perfect

By Dan King

Steve Spurgin -  Past Perfect

Blue Night Records
Released: May, 2011

There have been so many wonderful story telling songwriters emerge from the state of Texas over the years, one gets the impression that when a car dealership in the Lone Star State needs a new salesman, they just hand each applicant a pair of boxing gloves and send them out to the service bay to settle who gets the job.

I mean, it’s ASSUMED they can each spin a tale!

Monday, February 27, 2012

CD REVIEW - Wayne Taylor and Appaloosa - It's Gonna Be A Beautiful Day

By W.J.  Hallock

Wayne Taylor and Appaloosa - It's Gonna Be A Beautiful Day

Record Label: Independent
Released: September, 2011

Experience, knowledge and age share common ground….. and the sum total of all three adds up to “comfort.” And comfort is a gift. And with this gift, you can find comfort in what you do, what you know, and most importantly….. in just who you are.

From the sounds of Wayne Taylor’s new release, Wayne has found his “comfort” zone. “It’s Gonna Be A Beautiful Day” is a perfect title for this release. It’s also one of the best cuts on the CD. Driving on the interstate, about two minutes into the very first song, “She Put The Tears In My Eyes“, I realized I wasn’t fighting traffic any more……. I was cruisin’! Comfort IS a gift….. Thank you Wayne.

Monday, February 20, 2012

CD REVIEW - Dale Ann Bradley - Somewhere South of Crazy

By Dan King

Dale Ann Bradley - Somewhere South of Crazy

Record Label: Compass Records
Released: August 30, 2011

It’s been the same story in real estate since the dawn of time: Location, Location, Location.

Drift into the world of recorded music and the prevailing mantra can become: Production, Production, Production.

“Hey kid, how are you gonna package that shiny object?”

Monday, February 13, 2012

CD REVIEW - Missy Werner - Three Kinds of Lonesome

By W.J.  Hallock

Missy Werner - Three Kinds of Lonesome

Record Label: Missy Werner Music
Released: 2011

Just about every aspect of this CD is first class. Missy has put together a project that is musically, artistically, visually and tastefully appealing. A lot of effort was put into making this a quality release.

The most important decision Missy made was bringing Jon Weisberger on board as Producer. His expertise, talent and input were invaluable to the result.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

CD REVIEW - Tony Rice - The Bill Monroe Collection

By Dan King

Tony Rice  -  The Bill Monroe Collection

Record Label: Rounder
Released Jan.31, 2012

Ask Alison Krauss how she feels about Tony Rice and the answer comes short and sweet."Tony's music is my favorite music ever recorded.”

Tony Rice is equally positive in his take on Bill Monroe – “I see Bill Monroe in the same light as Miles Davis, absolutely the best….as pure as it gets.”

Monday, January 23, 2012

CD REVIEW - Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Del McCoury Band - American Legacies

BY: Dan King

Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Del McCoury Band - American Legacies

Record Label: McCoury Music
Release Date: April 12, 2011

Collaboration. The dictionary defines it as people from different origins working together toward a common goal. Collaboration is what made America great. On “American Legacies,” The Preservation Hall Jazz Band and the Del McCoury Band come together in a brilliant collaboration of New Orleans Jazz and Bluegrass to make a CD that is authentic, well executed, interesting, and an absolute joy to listen to.

Monday, January 16, 2012

CD REVIEW - Three Tall Pines - All That's Left

By: W.J. Hallock

Three Tall Pines - All That's Left

Released: 2011

The four gentlemen in this band all should have been born about 100 years ago. Their melodies, lyrics, sound, feel, instrumentation and singing all hearken back to another place in time. The music on this CD is simple, spare, stark and austere….. but, authentic, honest and real. And the most impressive aspect of “All That’s Left” is the fact that all the songs presented here are originals. It’s very easy to take this music at face value, because there is nothing on the musical landscape that one can compare Three Tall Pines to. They are definitely one of a kind!

Monday, January 9, 2012

CD REVIEW - Della Mae - I Built This Heart

Image634952438330028215By: W.J. Hallock

Della Mae  - I Built This Heart

Released:  September 2011

When Della Mae members “Sunny,” “Captain,” “Juggles” and “Rosy” decided to invite  “Squawk” to join forces with them, did they already know how magical the result was going to be?  Did “Squawk” have any idea how good a home she was going to?  It’s been said that #1,  all good things happen for a reason…..  and #2, that where a person is, is usually right where they’re supposed to be. It must be true, because these five musicians really sound like they all belong together! Go ahead…. go to their web site, order your copy of their new CD, “I Built This Heart,” and ENJOY! Their web site is the only place you can get it. It’ll be some of the best money you’ve spent in a while, and your “ears” will love you for it!

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