DISClaimer: The Perfect Country Record?

Is there such a thing as a perfect country record?

Thriving bluegrass darlings Darin & Brooke Aldridge might have created just such a thing. With the assistance of former Statler Brother Jimmy Fortune, they have breathed new life into The Louvin Brothers classic “Everytime You Leave.” It thrilled me so much that I played it five times in succession.

Needless to say, it is the Disc of the Day.

The rest of our DisClaimer bluegrass survey today reveals excellent works by The John Jorgenson Bluegrass Band, by David Davis & The Warrior River Boys, by Balsam Range and by banjo maestro Ned Luberecki.

The DisCovery Award goes to Sideline, who have it all going on in every department.

Writers: Will Handy; Producers: Robert Montgomery & David Davis; Publisher: PD; Rounder (track)
– The band’s latest is a tribute to the music of the legendary Charlie Poole (1892-1931). They take his old-time tunes and ably reinterpret them as bluegrass numbers. In addition to this lively romp, the set includes versions of such timeless faves as “If the River Was Whiskey,” “Sweet Sunny South,” “White House Blues” and “May I Sleep In Your Barn Tonight Mister,” but oddly not Poole’s most famous song, “Don’t Let Your Deal Go Down.” Recommended.

O’CONNOR BAND/Emily’s Reel
Writers: Mark O’Connor; Producers: Mark O’Connor/Forrest O’Connor; Publishers: M.O.M.I., BMI; OMAC (track)
– Grammy winner O’Connor continues his journey with his family band with a live album. It kicks off with this triple-fiddled toe tapper. A smile and a delight.

HIGHER GROUND/Ned Luberecki & Dale Ann Bradley
Writers: Kelley Luberecki/Dale Ann Bradley; Producer: none listed; Publishers: Clement Luberecki/Dale Ann Bradley, BMI; CLM (track)
Take Five is Luberecki’s deluxe banjo album. He’s bolstered on it by such guests as Missy Raines, Chris Jones & The Night Drivers, Amanda Smith, Becky Buller and, here, the splendid Kentucky bluegrass diva Dale Ann Bradley. Steve Martin and Tony Trischka provide liner notes, which should give you some idea of how classy this project is.

Writers: John Jorgenson/Chris Hillman; Producer: John Jorgenson; Publishers: Jorgensongs/Bar None, BMI; Cleopatra (track)
– Jorgenson is best known to country fans via his work in The Desert Rose Band. But his talent has also led to stints with everyone from Elton John to Bob Dylan. Willie, Emmylou, Cash, Hank Jr., Seger and Bonnie Raitt have also tapped his multi-instrumental abilities. His latest project, titled From the Crows Nest sets him in a stellar bluegrass band with Herb Pedersen, Jon Randall and Mark Fain. It drops on July 13. Randall takes the lead on this tune, which sounds like a an instant anthem for the entire bluegrass industry. Indeed, the whole CD seems to be filled with songs that could become classics of the genre — “I Will Shelter You,” “Travelin’ Angels” and “Die Tryin,’” for instance.

LARRY CORDLE/I’ll Meet You In The Morning
Writers: Albert E. Brumley; Producer: Larry Cordle; Publishers: ClearBox Rights, no performance rights listed; MightyCord (track)
– A cappella gospel quartet singing done with panache. Larry’s lead vocal is backed by The Joyful Noise Quartet — Carl Jackson, Val Storey and Bradley Walker. The album is titled Give Me Jesus.

BECK BULLER/Calamity Jane
Writers: Becky Buller/Tim Stafford; Producer: Stephen Mougin; Publishers: Goodnight Sparky/Daniel House, BMI; Dark Shadow
– Fiddler-singer Buller sits at No. 1 on the Bluegrass Unlimited chart this month with this rapid-fire dazzler. That’s Rhonda Vincent singing high harmony. The female-outlaw song is on Buller’s current Crepe Paper Heart collection. In addition to Vincent, it is packed with celebs including Rob Ickes, The Fairfield Four, Claire Lynch and Sam Bush.

Writers: Ralph Edmond Stanley II/Alex Leach/Joe Rose; Producer: John Rigsby; Publishers: Two Pop S, BMI; Stanley Family
-Pleasant, easy-listening ‘grass. As a singer, he lacks his famous father’s Appalachian “edge.”

SIDELINE/Thunder Dan
Writer: Josh Manning; Producer: Tim Surrett; Publishers: Daynezanezinn, BMI; Mountain Home
– This has just entered the top-10 on the Bluegrass Unlimited chart. It has a very cool backbeat and a groovy, minor-key mode. Not to mention a murder lyric, a keening tenor lead vocal and sizzling mandolin, fiddle and banjo chops. Sign me up for the fan club.

Writers: none listed; Producer: Balsam Range; Publishers: none listed; Mountain Home
– “Trains I Missed” was the IBMA Song of the Year in 2011, and Balsam Range is a longtime favorite in the genre. Its current Mountain Overture project places the band’s biggest songs in an orchestral context. Needless to say, I approached this with skepticism. In general, the Atlanta Pops ensemble stays in the background, out of the way, adding washes of strings behind the band and providing evocative sighs of sound. Of course, the songs are still wonderful. So the experiment works.

Writers: Charlie & Ira Louvin; Producer: none listed; Publishers: none listed; Mountain Home
– Exquisite in every way. Brooke is the reigning IBMA Female Vocalist of the Year. But Darin has always touched my heart with his Deep-Dixie vocal harmony and dexterous guitar work. They begin this in classic Louvin duet mode, which is heavenly. Then Fortune stepped in with a third harmony part and the top of my head lifted off. Absolutely essential listening. There’s a video, too.


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Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow. He is a respected music critic, author and historian.

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