Do you miss Country music? If so, I prescribe a trip to the land of bluegrass. That’s where you’ll find hillbilly satisfaction. Today’s Disc of the Day comes from a visitor to that Land, country superstar Alan Jackson.
The DisCovery Award goes to Della Mae. This all-female band has earned a Grammy nomination with its first major-label album, and richly deserves it.
DAILEY & VINCENT/Steel Drivin’ Man
Writer: Jamie Dailey; Producers: Jamie Dailey & Darrin Vincent; Publisher: Bluegrass Ambassador, BMI; Rounder (track)
-These guys are nominated for a bluegrass Grammy Award, and this might be their year. The category has long been dominated by Ricky Skaggs and Alison Krauss, neither of whom is nominated. The only prior winner (2005) who is a nominee is Del McCoury. If speed counts, this lead-off track of Brothers of the Highway should aid Dailey & Vincent’s chances. It is a blistering, full-throttle attack with all of the band members wearing their digits out on their instruments. Other highlights include lovely remakes of the Louvin Brothers’ “When I Stop Dreaming” and Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper’s “Tomorrow I’ll Be Gone,” plus the lilting, beautifully written and performed title tune.
THE BOXCARS/You Took All the Ramblin’ Out of Me
Writer: Jerry Hubbard; Producer: The Boxcars; Publisher: Sixteen Stars, BMI; Mountain Home
-Also a Grammy nominee, this Nashville band is packed with stellar instrumentalists. The Boxcars’ It’s Just a Road CD features this ramblin’-boy ditty penned by the late Jerry Reed. If there’s no special spark here, it is still a solid piece of work.
ALAN JACKSON/Blue Ridge Mountain Song
Writer: Alan Jackson; Producers: Keith Stegall and Adam Wright; Publishers: EMI April/Tri-Angels; ASCAP; ACR/EMI (track)
-This pretty tune from Alan’s The Bluegrass Album recently hit No. 1 on the CMT video chart. Amid tinkling mandolin and banjo, the star’s heartfelt hillbilly baritone sings of a sweet, innocent love that continues beyond death. Completely charming.
CHRIS JONES & THE NIGHT DRIVERS/Lonely Comes Easy
Writer: Chris Jones; Producer: Chris Jones; Publisher: Gal Sal, BMI; Rebel (track)
-I’ve always liked these guys. Jones has one of those warm, instantly enveloping voices, and this terrific, ineffably sad song shows what a fine writer he is. You’ll find it on the group’s current album by the same name. Bluegrass celeb guests on the collection include Claire Lynch, Dan Tyminski, Sierra Hull and Ron Block. Heartily recommended.
RICKY SKAGGS & BRUCE HORNSBY/The Way It Is
Writer: B.R. Hornsby; Producer: none listed; Publisher: Sony-ATV/Zappo, BMI; Skaggs Family
-Pop star Hornsby, who previously won a bluegrass Grammy with The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band in 1989, teams up with Skaggs on the live CD Cluck Ol’ Hen. The album’s delightful reworking of his 1986 hit is so grassy you’ll hardly recognize it. Piano and all.
BLUE HIGHWAY/The Game
Writers: Shawn Lane/Barry Bales; Producer: Blue Highway; Publishers: Cat Town/Quackhead, BMI; Rounder (track)
-Blue Highway is remarkable for its endurance. In a genre where band members are constantly being reshuffled, this group is celebrating its 20th anniversary together. Its 11th album dropped yesterday. This high, lonesome title tune — cowritten by the band’s Shawn Lane — kicks the collection off in style. Tim Stafford’s lead vocals remain among the best in the biz, and the award-winning dobro work of Rob Ickes is as stellar as ever.
CARL JACKSON/Just As I Am/Softly and Tenderly
Writers: Charlotte Elliott/William B. Bradbury – Will L. Thompson; Producers: Carl Jackson and Jimmy Metts; Publisher: public domain; Voxhall (track)
-Jackson’s Grace Notes album is a collection of acoustic guitar instrumentals of cherished hymns. It is a gentle gift of melody that wafts through your soul.
DELLA MAE/This World Oft Can Be
Writers: Courtney Hartman/Celia Woodsmith; Producer: Bryan Sutton; Publishers: Fearless Hum/Squawkboxmusic, BMI; Rounder (track)
-This all-female quintet is the Cinderella story of this year’s bluegrass Grammy Awards. Della Mae is nominated for music’s top honor with its debut album. This haunting, minor-key, Celtic flavored melody is its title tune. The Bostonians recorded their project at John Carter Cash’s studio in Hendersonville. If they don’t win your heart, it must be made of stone.
JAMES KING/The Devil’s Train
Writers: Cliff Carlisle/Mel Foree; Producers: Ken Irwin and Steve Chandler; Publishers: Sony-ATV/Acuff-Rose; BMI; Rounder (track)
-This veteran stylist is one of the bluegrass world’s most soulful singers. He is Grammy nominated for his Three Chords and the Truth album. This rapid-fire cautionary tale is the set’s lead song. It’s a measure of his gifts that he can make such familiar songs as “Chiseled in Stone” and “He Stopped Loving Her Today” into fresh listening experiences.
LORRAINE JORDAN AND CAROLINA ROAD/That’s Kentucky
Writers: Dixie Hall/Tom T. Hall; Producer: Josh Goforth; Publisher: Good Home Grown; BMI; Pinecastle (track)
-This is currently No. 1 on the bluegrass-music charts and is also the band’s new video. Lead singer Tommy Long is your tender, persuasive guide through this lively ode to the Bluegrass State that name checks Abe Lincoln and Bill Monroe. In a genre where flash is the norm, these guys win you over with seemingly effortless expertise.