Saturday, November 30, 2013

Prescription Bluegrass Reviews The Velvet Blue - Memories & Heartaches


_________________________________Reviewed by: W.J. Hallock 

When this CD arrived, I had no idea who this band was……. the only recognizable name was Steve Gulley, who produced and engineered this release at The Curve Recording Studio, Cumberland Gap, TN.

Steve also sings some harmony, plays some guitar and wrote the opening song, “I Think I’d Rather Fall.” As a fan of Steve’s song-writing, I was immediately drawn to listen to the first song, which is the only one Steve wrote on this project.

With my old ears, I tend to listen to music one way…. LOUD! After I listen to music in my truck, I always try to remember to turn the volume back down, that way I don’t scare myself to death when I put something new into the CD player.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Prescription Bluegrass Reviews - Idletymes—POOR MOUNTAIN HOME

PRESCRIPTION BLUEGRASS IMAGE  CD REVIEW IDLETYMESSometimes, it is challenging to decide which ‘measuring stick’ to use when evaluating the work of a group that is between the subjective parameters of being a very good regional group and those of a professional-level band that measures up to the artistic characteristics and standards expected by not only the critics, but also those of the paying consumer.

“Poor Mountain Home” bounces between those criteria. On the one hand, there are tracks where the standards could have been a bit higher.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Prescription Bluegrass Reviews - Larry Efaw & the Bluegrass Mountaineers - SHE LEFT ME STANDING ON A MOUNTAIN

PRESCRIPTION BLUEGRASS IMAGE - CD REVIEW LARRY EFAW & THE BLUEGRASS MOUNTAINEERSThis CD features genuine old-time, traditional Bluegrass music presented in a way most aficionados of that genre would appreciate.

The core sound is strongly reminiscent of Stanley Brothers recordings and, to a lesser degree, Larry Sparks and Bill Monroe.

Tom Isaac’s banjo playing is strong and the overall rhythm and feel is steady, correct and even a little pushy, at times—with emphasis on a Ralph Stanley-ish type of drive, as opposed to more modern rhythmic incarnations, such as that performed by many post-modern groups like Alison Kraus, for example. The harmonies are tight and the lead vocals are well-placed and well-suited for the chosen material.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Prescription Bluegrass Reviews Finnders & Youngberg - I DON’T WANT LOVE YOU WON’T GIVE UNTIL I CRY

Prescription Bluegrass CD REVIEW  by W. J. Hallock    FINNDERS & YOUNGBERGI love it when I’m not expecting a new CD from an artist that I really like and a new one magically appears at my door.

Finnders and Youngberg’s new music arrived and it was in my CD player immediately! I was very impressed with their last release, so I knew that this one was going to be good…….. and it has lived up to all my expectations, and beyond. 

The song writing is top shelf, the vocals are warm, expertly sung and expressive, the pickin’ is outrageously good, the personality and charisma of each player lights up the tracks, and it is recorded, mixed and mastered with an artistic and technical savvy. There isn’t a weak spot on the entire CD, and all that was evident after just one listening!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Prescription Bluegrass Reviews Laurel River Line - FARTHER DOWN THE LINE

PRESCRIPTION BLUEGRASS CD REVIEW - LAUREL RIVER LINE BY RITA SMALLA number of groups have recently been releasing some very good Bluegrass music and Laurel River Line is no exception.

The band’s second project Farther Down The Line, which was produced by Randy Jones of Lonesome River Band, is something that almost every listener will enjoy.

It is straight forward Bluegrass from the first song and does not let up until the last song is complete. Laurel River Line gives listeners tight harmonies and hard-driving instrumentation.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Prescription Bluegrass Reviews - ARAGON MILL by Si Kahn & The Looping Brothers

PRESCRIPTION BLUEGRASS CD REVIEW GRAPIC  - SI KAHN & THE LOOPING BROTHERS  2013I have just returned to Ireland after showcasing my own material in Raleigh, NC, at IBMA. I also got to hear about a hundred other bands, and my head is still ringing in the key of “G”, after hearing so many versions of “Goldrush” and “Clinch Mountain Backstep.”

Wonderful and all as these Classic Bluegrass tunes are, it's refreshing to get to listen to a Bluegrass CD that is comprised of fifteen original songs, in a great variety of different keys, and sung by a man in what could be fairly described as a 'non-Bluegrass' voice.

Si Kahn is a legend in songwriting circles, and is probably best known, certainly in Europe, for his classic, “Aragon Mill,” which seems to have been around for so long, that many knowledgeable folks around these parts consider it to be an old Traditional song. This is a kind of reverse compliment in one way, but not one, I'm fairly sure, that appeals to Mr. Kahn, or his performing rights society/publisher, in this case,, when it comes to the collection of royalties. But that's another story.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Prescription Bluegrass Reviews RAMBLE ON from The Dirty River Ramblers

Image635162975508623934Ramble On is the debut recording project of the Dirty River Ramblers, from the Omaha, Nebraska area, and features ten original pieces, including three instrumentals.

A quick glance at the cover art suggests they are perhaps a traditional Bluegrass group, but, in fact, they sound more like a quasi-mix of Old-time, jam-band, folk, southern rock-ish with a prevailing old-time feel.

This effort is not likely to spawn accolades for spectacular musicianship or particularly strong vocal talents, though both are adequate and pleasant and some of the lead singing (not sure who sings where) is strong and somewhat above average.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Prescription Bluegrass Reviews: Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road

Image635152127736149073You’re gonna love this CD! It’s as simple as that….. This twelve song release on Pinecastle Records is a solid musical endeavor bound to win Lorraine and the boys new fans. With power house vocalists and exceptional instrumentalists, they have all their bluegrass bases covered. Six original songs make a very strong statement as to how prolific this band can be, and the six cover songs are all well chosen and thought out as to how well they fit the band’s direction.

Lorraine wrote two of her songs with Terry Foust, “Livin’ Like I’m Dying,” which she also sings lead on, and “Hold Me One More Time.” She definitely needs to write more often with Mr. Foust! Both songs are cohesive lyrically and melodically, and, more important, they’re memorable and catchy. Her own “Bluegrass Barn,” sung by Tommy Long, is one her long time bluegrass fans are going to enjoy.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Prescription Bluegrass Reviews O WINDING RIVER from The Stetson Family

Image635149278629389487You can imagine my curiosity when I received a package from Melbourne, Australia with a note requesting consideration for review.

I truly had no idea what Australia’s version of Bluegrass would sound like or if it would even resemble my idea of Bluegrass.

I admit, I am open-minded about all genres of music and, in the case of Bluegrass, will not dismiss something just because it does not fit a preconceived mold. Although, in the case of this project, it is Bluegrass with a lean towards, what I would consider, a string band or folk sound.

O Winding River, the latest release by The Stetson Family, who are not blood relatives at all but rather five friends who, through circumstances that could in itself be the backdrop of a song, came together to share a common love of Bluegrass and American roots music.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Prescription Bluegrass Reviews Blue Mafia–MY COLD HEART !

Blue Mafia |“My Cold Heart”| Label: Independent|  Produced by: Tony Wray |Released: May 2013 |Reviewed by: Rita SmallWith the release of My Cold Heart, the freshman venture from Indiana based Blue Mafia; the group has hit the ground running with no intentions of slowing down. Blue Mafia, formed in 2011 by the husband and wife team of Tony and Dara Wray, has quickly been making their presence known.

Tony, a well-known musician, and Dara, who wrote eight of the projects thirteen songs, have found the right combination that delivers a mixture of original material, classic renderings, and a hot instrumental.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Prescription Bluegrass Reviews Jacob Underwood’s Grass Clippings

Image635131250078776015Jacob Underwood is a talented and creative young man who has just released his inaugural CD, Grass Clippings.

This all-instrumental effort consists of five original pieces and five well-worn gems probably familiar to most folks in the Bluegrass community.

In addition to composing half of the recording titles, Jacob also plays all of the instruments, including banjo, fiddle, mandolin, guitar and bass.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Prescription Bluegrass Reviews - Snyder Family Band BUILDING BRIDGES

Image635124418128641193Laine and Bud Snyder are probably the proudest parents in Bluegrass and acoustic music today. Their two oldest children, Samantha, 14, and Zeb, 18, are two musical prodigies currently setting the festivals, concert halls and airwaves on fire with their talents. Their youngest son, Owen, at seven years old, already has an established repertoire of audience favorites, too.

Samantha and Zeb are serious instrumentalists, vocalists and song writers, and Owen is “Mr. Personality” in the band. Their live shows are crowd pleasing excursions into rousing instrumentals, three part gospel harmony, with Mom, Laine, adding her vocals to their faith based inspirational songs, and Dad, Bud, holding it all together with his upright bass playing.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Prescription Bluegrass Reviews RED from Italy’s Red Wine

Image635113095274358968RED is the new CD Album from Italian Bluegrass Band, Red Wine.

This group of talented and dedicated players have been together for thirty-six years, through many personnel changes, though their Musical philosophy has always remained firmly rooted in hardcore Traditional Bluegrass.

If you were to hear the opening notes of almost any song or tune on this album, you might very well believe you were listening to any of the ace American Bands like Kentucky Thunder or the Del McCoury Band, and it’s only when it comes to the vocals that you might twig the fact that these guys are not from TN or NC.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Prescription Bluegrass Reviews - Don Rigsby - ‘Doctor’s Orders’

Image635094137445409628Imagine, you are doing a tribute CD to one of your favorite artists. Now, imagine giving that artist a list of 50 songs and HE picks the songs for the album.

That is exactly how Don Rigsby allowed the songs on his current project Doctor’s Orders, A Tribute to Ralph Stanley to be chosen. This project includes 14 songs, 13 of which are Stanley classics with the title track written by Larry Cordle.

I must admit that when I first heard Don Rigsby was doing a tribute project for Ralph Stanley, I was not exactly ready to run out and purchase the CD.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Prescription Bluegrass Reviews: Claire Lynch - DEAR SISTER

Image635082596774984640The instant you hear Claire Lynch’s voice, you know it’s her. She has that most elusive of attributes…… RECOGNIZABILITY.

In my humble opinion, recognizability is the most important asset an artist needs. Think about it….. you know it’s Bill Monroe or Lester Flatt the instant you hear their voices, you know it’s Willie Nelson, sometimes even before you hear him sing, because his guitar, nicknamed “Trigger,“ is as identifiable as Willie’s voice is. That guitar’s SOUND informs your brain immediately! Be it love, or be it hate, an artist’s recognizability is the key to his/her success, or failure.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Prescription Bluegrass Reviews THE ROYS–Gyspy Runaway Train

Image635058563118101617At a time when it seems that many groups are straying from the traditional bluegrass sound, “Gypsy Runaway Train”, is pulling into the station right on time.

This collection of six original songs and seven familiar favorites is the third CD released by the brother and sister duo, The Roys, and is nothing but straightforward bluegrass. There are no frills on this project, just solid bluegrass music.

I have enjoyed listening to The Roys since they first entered the bluegrass realm with their freshman release “New Day Dawning”. I was attracted to the ability of Elaine and Lee to compose songs that were both honest and since. Whether the songs centered on a family member, a moment in time, or their faith, it seems as if the lyrics spoke directly to me.


Prescription Bluegrass Reviews: Newton and Thomas - REBORN

Image635064465790062206I’ve been on a roll lately….. every CD I’ve picked up to review has been exceptionally good. At this rate I’m going to forget how to be nosy, constructively critical and nit-picky! Sometimes, when I’m listening to a new CD, I dig a little too deep into the who, what, where, when and why, and then I have to keep diggin’ even deeper to satisfy my curiosity.

I can’t seem to stop listening “just one more time!” The only problem with that is time just seems to slip away from me, and I can’t keep myself on schedule.

So, for this review, I grabbed a new CD “blindly” off the pile, thinking that may just be the way to break this hot streak of great new music. Well, that didn’t work! The new CD from Mark Newton and Steve Thomas, “REBORN,” jumped out of the speakers with a bang, and there I was again…. listening “just one more time!”

Monday, June 3, 2013

Prescription Bluegrass Reviews: Head For The Hills–Blue Ruin

Image635058646067896074Blue Ruin consists of 12 selections composed and performed by the Colorado based group, Head for the Hills, including 10 vocal cuts and 2 instrumentals.

The opening cut, Take Me Back, is reminiscent of an early Country Gazette-style offering, particularly with respect to the rhythm style and vocal arrangement.

Though there’s no banjo on this cut, it would otherwise suggest that a regimen of modern Bluegrass fare might be forthcoming. However, with the opening of the next cut, Never Does, you know you’ve stumbled onto something exotic indeed.

Never Does’ feel is more like modern Indie/Grunge merged with Bohemian Gypsy music, complete with train-whistle style background harmonies.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Prescription Bluegrass CD REVIEW – Vincent Cross - A TOWN CALLED NORMAL


These days the term “Bluegrass” encompasses a broad range of musical expressions. From the down home, gutsy realism of first-generation entertainers like Ralph Stanley, Bill Monroe and Flatt & Scruggs to the more refined sounds of Alison Krauss to the outer fringes of what is technically and musically possible and still retain some semblance of the core sound. It is indeed a broad genre that continues to give birth to new broods.

All that said, “A Town Called Normal,” in my opinion, does not fit into any honest, objective interpretation of Bluegrass music. Does it have a banjo on most cuts? Yes. Is there a mandolin? Sometimes. However, those characteristics alone do not a bluegrass band make.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Prescription Bluegrass Reviews Kim Robins’ - 40 Years Late

Image635046331817134067Kim Robins project, “40 Years Late”, is a breath of fresh air.

It appears that Kim has spent her time not only honing her craft, but also finding her voice and knowing exactly who she is as a singer.

You will not hear someone trying to imitate other female singers, or singing in the rafters, on this recording. Instead, you will hear a woman with a mid-range, bluesy, voice that puts you in the mood for some good traditional bluegrass and classic country.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Mark Raborn Reviews Rebecca Frazier’s WHEN WE FALL


     Rebecca Frazier’s new CD “When We Fall” features twelve tracks, of which ten are original compositions including three instrumentals.

The project is superbly supported throughout by a strong producer and by a stellar cast of musicians that largely need little introduction, including Ron Block and Scott Vestal on banjo, Barry Bales on bass, Shad Cobb on fiddle, Andy Hall on resonator guitar and husband John Frazier on mandolin. Rebecca plays guitar on all cuts.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Rita Small Reviews Peter Rowan – “The Old School”

Image635037658859281396It is 2am and something draws me from bed and compels me to begin writing this review. Not in the usual way, no laptop, no touchpad, all I need is a notebook and a pen. I know, sometimes the old school way is just better.

Nevertheless, why does this assignment need to be handled in this manner? Has the project I have been listening to for the past weeks rubbed off on me? Or, as I suspect, will paper and pen make it easier to follow my ramblings through the inevitable editing process necessary when the time comes to finally convey my thoughts to the laptop about this simple yet profoundly complex project that Peter Rowan has compiled.

Monday, April 29, 2013

CD Review - The Gibson Brothers - “THEY CALLED IT MUSIC”

Image635037672395635632I knew it at the time…… I thought about it while I was listening to this CD….. I’m thinking about it right NOW, and getting madder by the minute!!!

Eric and Leigh Gibson were about two hours away from my home doing a show at Byron Berline’s Double-Stop-Fiddle-Shop Theater in Guthrie, OK last year….and I missed it! I’ve been kickin’ myself ever since! Byron’s theater is intimate, warm and diligently refined for acoustic music. In other words, the perfect place to have seen the 2012 IBMA Entertainer’s Of The Year. And I MISSED IT!

I guarantee that won’t happen again…..

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

CD Review - Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen - On The Edge

Image635037681129925204When you think of an artist, do you remember the first time you heard them sing?

When it comes to Frank Solivan (pronounced soul-live-on), I can say yes. It was November 2006 and Prime Cuts of Bluegrass #84 came out with a single “Somebody’s Missing You” by, to me, an unknown singer named Frank Solivan.

I was an instant fan and knew that Solivan would become a name in bluegrass.

Fast forward six plus years and here we are with the release of ON THE EDGE, the sophomore project of Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen, and the band is ready to be recognized.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

CD Review – Marty Raybon - The Back Forty

Image635037685302833881Marty Raybon’s voice puts me into a comfort zone……. you know, like a nice warm snifter of something smooth after supper sittin’ by the fire. Or, slippin’ into your favorite flannel shirt after you’ve come in cold and wet from workin’ outside.

Maybe that comfortable feeling of mine is because that voice has been around so long, and I’ve never heard Marty sound anything but GOOD!

I knew goin’ in that I was going to like this CD, but, I didn’t know I was going to like it this much! WOW! What a recording this one is!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Prescription Bluegrass CD Review–Feller and Hill and The Bluegrass Buckaroos


Image634992818246789610Feller and Hill and The Bluegrass Buckaroos

Released:   February, 2013

Label:   Blue Circle Records

Review by:   W.J. Hallock

My buddy, Brian McNeal, and I, have been friends since the mid 70’s. Besides being friends, we have one other thing in common….. a love affair with that 60’s Bakersfield country music sound. Brian played all those Buck and Merle songs when he was a disc jockey for KNIX in Phoenix, which was owned by Buck Owens. My band “Cactus County,” and I were playing country music (yeah, LOTS of Buck and Merle!), for dance hall crowds in every honky-tonk and road house in the southwest, with Phoenix being home base.

That sound of Buck and Don Rich singing together, Bonnie Owens (Buck’s ex-wife) vocalizing on all of Merle Haggard’s hit records, and that famous chicken-pickin’ Telecaster guitar playing of Don, James Burton and Roy Nichols will forever be a special part of country music history that we’ll always love. So, now, when anything reminds us of that era, we’re all in and checkin’ it out!

A few months back, Brian sent me some songs to listen to by “Feller and Hill and the Bluegrass Buckaroos.” We both couldn’t believe how much Tom Feller and Chris Hill sounded like Buck and Don singing together! We were pretty excited to see just how this musical adventure was going to turn out, as the CD wasn’t finished and ready for release.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Prescription Bluegrass CD REVIEW - FLATT LONESOME


by: W.J. Hallock

Flatt Lonesome -  Flatt Lonesome

Label: Pisgah Ridge

Released: January, 2013

This CD, by “FLATT LONESOME,” is compelling evidence that the future of bluegrass music is in talented, capable and passionate hands. On this, their debut release on Pisgah Ridge Records, they play with a nostalgic, traditional feel, the result being an authentic homage to their predecessors.

Their vocals shine with a “family” flavor that only siblings seem to naturally and inherently possess. Kelsi, Charli and Buddy Robertson sing three part harmony with the ease of having been born to do it, and in my humble opinion, they have the potential to one day be as good as the Whites or the Isaacs. As young as they are, and as good as they are, it’s only a matter of time.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Prescription Bluegrass CD Review–The SteelDrivers–HAMMER DOWN


By: W.J. Hallock

The SteelDrivers – Hammer Down

Label: Rounder Records

Release Date: February 2013

From the sounds of the newest CD by THE STEELDRIVERS, it’s obvious that lightning really can strike the same place twice. This release, “HAMMER DOWN,” is the first to include new singer/songwriter Gary Nichols and new mandolin man Brent Truitt. Fiddler Tammy Rogers, bass player Mike Fleming and banjo ace Richard Bailey must have had the gods of musical fate looking over their shoulders, because the replacements they found for Chris Stapleton and Mike Henderson don’t miss a lick, sliding right into place and keeping the band’s momentum motorin’ right along.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Prescription Bluegrass CD Review–The Hillbenders

Image634945188679664065THE HILLBENDERS – CAN YOU HEAR ME

Label: Compass Records

Released: September 2012

By: W.J. Hallock

One of the definitions of “Symbiosis” is: “A close, prolonged association between two or more different species that is mutually beneficial to each member.” Yep….. that sounds like THE HILLBENDERS to me! “SYMBIOTIC!” Chad “Gravy Boat” Graves’ screamin’ dobro benefits from Mark Cassidy’s high wattage, parallel banjo licks, while Mark’s banjo benefits from Nolan Lawrence’s hot and tasty mandolin chops. Nolan’s mandolin benefits from Jim Rea’s enthusiastic guitar, just like Jim’s guitar benefits from his cousin, Gary Rea’s thunder storm driven upright bass, and Gary’s bass, in turn, churns right back around under the current of Chad’s dobro. Around and around they go, five different “Species” of instruments bouncing in and out of each other‘s space for their mutual benefit! Simply put, this band is so tight they probably all breathe in unison!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Prescription Bluegrass CD Review–Jerry Douglas “Traveler”


Jerry Douglas – Traveler
Label:      eOne Music
Released: October 2012

Reviewed by: Dan King

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is the greatest Dobro player of all?

Faced with that query, most magic mirrors would probably respond by saying that Jerry Douglas has been, and is, the premier Dobro player of our time.

And who could argue?

Thursday, January 3, 2013



BY: W.J. Hallock

Coty Hogue’s new CD, “When We Get To Shore,” definitely shows off her talents as a singer, song-writer, guitarist and claw-hammer banjo player. It also shows that she is absolutely fearless! This release was recorded “LIVE At Empty Sea Studios,“ in Seattle, Washington.

Anyone attempting to record a live CD, in my humble opinion, is either an eternal optimist, or certifiably crazy! So many things can go wrong….. mentally, technically, musically, physically, mechanically…… you really have to have all your ducks in a row! But…. if you persevere and pull it off, you end up with an audio Polaroid of that moment in time. A total one of a kind image.

Coty Hogue pulled this one off, and she did it in a marvelously intimate, emotional and personal fashion.

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