The bluegrass grows all around in today’s edition of DisClaimer.
Unquestionably, the DisCovery Award goes to The Kody Norris Show, a band that simply delighted my senses.
The Disc of the Day contest is a little more complicated, so I’m giving out three of these prizes. The Female vocal winner is bluegrass queen Rhonda Vincent with her Porter Wagoner song revival. The Male vocal winner is big Danny Paisley, who has soul to spare. The Group performance award goes to the lovely gospel effort by Balsam Range.
THE KODY NORRIS SHOW / “Love Bug”
Writers: Kody Norris; Producer: none listed; Label: Rebel
— Charming. This rhinestoned, retro costumed foursome plays with crisp precision and sings with high-lonesome authenticity. The song is an upbeat, light-hearted ditty about falling head over heels… and it will leave you with a grin on yer face.
DALE ANN BRADLEY / “Falling Down”
Writers: Ashby Frank; Producer: none listed; Label: Pine Castle Records
— This much awarded bluegrass Female Vocalist winner has a sterling collection titled Things She Couldn’t Get Over that is currently the No. 1 bluegrass album. This thoughtful, mid-tempo song from it has both poetry and rippling instrumental textures to transport you to hillbilly nirvana.
ALAN BIBEY & GRASSTOWNE / “Hitchhiking to California”
Writers: Wes Goldberg/Alan Bibey/Jerry Salley; Producer: Alan Bibey, Grasstowne, Ron Stewart, Jerry Salley; Label: Billy Blue
— The sprightly title tune of this quintet’s current CD is presently at No. 1 on the Bluegrass Unlimited chart. The vocals are somewhat creamy, rather than edgy, so it goes down smoothly.
ROLAND WHITE & FRIENDS / “Alabama Jubilee”
Writers: George L. Cobb/Jack Yellen; Producer: Ty Gilpin & Jon Weisberger; Label: Mountain Home
— White’s illustrious career has included stints with Country Gazette and The Nashville Bluegrass Band. His current CD is A Tribute to The Kentucky Colonels, the group that launched the legendary mandolinist’s career. On this deliciously lively instrumental track, he’s joined by Kristin Scott Benson of The Grascals, and the album’s other bluegrass celeb guests include Darin & Brooke Aldridge, Gina Furtado, David Grier, Billy Strings and Molly Tuttle. At age 83, his fingers still fly over the fretboard like greased lightning.
BALSAM RANGE / “Grit and Grace”
Writers: Ann Melton/Beth Husband/Milan Miller; Producer: Balsam Ridge; Label: Mountain Home
— Sublimely lovely. The gentle gospel ballad is caressed by this durable ensemble with enormous heart. As a man looks back at his life’s ups and downs, he recognizes, “I supplied the grit, and God supplied the grace.”
RHONDA VINCENT / “What Ain’t to Be Just Might Happen”
Writers: Porter Wagoner; Producer: Rhonda Vincent; Label: Upper Management
— Vincent takes a 1972 Porter Wagoner country oldie out for a brisk romp with dynamic fiddle, mandolin and banjo breaks. It goes without saying that her wailin’ vocal is supreme. This new track is headed skyward.
DANNY PAISLEY & THE SOUTHERN GRASS / “Blink of an Eye”
Writers: Robert Amos; Producer: Wes Easter, Danny Paisley, Ryan Paisley & Bobby Lundy; Label: Pinecastle
— This new release is the lead track from Paisley’s Bluegrass Troubadour collection. It has a captivating, cool, rolling groove, and the excellent, bluesy singing is mountain soulful in the extreme. Mournful majesty. So nice I played it twice.
LARRY CORDLE / “Cherokee Fiddle”
Writers: Michael Martin Murphey; Producer: none listed; Label: Mighty Cord
— I’ve always liked this Michael Martin Murphey tune from 1977 (revived by Johnny Lee on the Urban Cowboy soundtrack) and am not at all surprised by how well it adapts to a bluegrass treatment. Nashville tunesmith Cordle can always be counted on for quality.
BARRY ABERNATHY & VINCE GILL / “Birmingham Jail”
Writers: none listed; Producer: Barry Abernathy & Jim VanCleve; Label: Billy Blue
— Banjo picking singer Abernathy has rounded up a busload of buddies for his new CD, which debuted on the bluegrass album chart this month. They include Dan Tyminski, Rhonda Vincent, Steve Gulley, Doyle Lawson, Sam Bush, Bryan Sutton, Rob Ickes and, on this toe-tapping album opener, everyone’s favorite tenor harmony singer.
JUNIOR SISK / “Just Load the Wagon”
Writers: J.R. Satterwhite; Producer: none listed; Label: Mountain Fever
— Rural nostalgia reigns here, and it doesn’t get much more down-home and old timey than this. The tempo will have you dancing around the kitchen, and the vintage mood will make you smile. Pure pleasure.
HIGH FIDELITY / “Banjo Player’s Blues”
Writers: Charlie Monroe; Producer: Jeremy Stephens, Corrina Rose Logston & Brad Benge; Label: Rebel
— Infectious. It’s the title track of this Nashville band’s current album. Jeremy Stephens’ hearty lead vocal is nearly outshone by the dashing fiddle of Corrina Rose Logston, and the overall effect is good vibrations all around.
BRONWYN KEITH-HYNES & SARAH JAROSZ / “Last Train”
Writers: Peter Rowan; Producer: none listed; Label: Sugar Petunia
— Fiddler Keith-Hynes has a high, yearning vocal delivery, but the spotlight shines brightest here on the sizzling instrumental work featuring mandolin magician Jarosz as well as her own slippery, silvery bowed notes.