january 2011

bluegrass boysBIG COUNTRY BLUEGRASS, The Boys In Hats and Ties Fans of Big Country Bluegrass will hardly be surprised by the authority the band displays on The Boys In Hats And Ties, but for those new to this veteran group’s work, a better calling card than this is hard to imagine.


diffieJOE DIFFIE, Homecoming: The Bluegrass AlbumJoe Diffie was so formidable a country artist (five chart topping singles between 1990 and 1995, and 13 Top 5 singles during that timeframe; his label, Columbia, once sent out promotional bumper stickers bearing the sentiment, “It’s Joe Diffie’s world, we just live in it.”) that the number of people who remember him breaking in with the bluegrass band Special Edition doubtless amount to handlful at this juncture. But break in as a bluegrass singer he did, and with Homecoming: The Bluegrass Album he has got back to where he once belonged.

grascalsTHE GRASCALS, The Grascals & Friends: Country Classics With A Bluegrass Spin Available exclusively at Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, the Grascals have introduced their own label by inviting some friends over to the studio to get it going on eleven tunes from the country music canon and throw in a new, uplifting original message song (twice), “I Am Strong,” designed to draw attention to the childhood cancer epidemic, penned in part by the formidable Grascals vocalist Jamie Johnson and featuring one of Dolly Parton’s two appearances on this disc.

sawmillLOST & FOUND, Down On Sawmill RoadSomething old, something new. Musicians come and go, Allen Mills persists and gathers new voices around him. Lost & Found keeps rollin’ on. This 14-song collection is a retrospective, a kind of “greatest hits,” if you will, of two decades’ worth of L&S’s soothing harmonies and exemplary musicianship, with its share of humor, insight and reverence in the songs’ narratives. Lost & Found has a lot more music in it, but as a retrospective of where it has been and where it’s at today, Down On Sawmill Road is satisfying indeed. The next chapter will be most welcome.

louvinCHARLIE LOUVIN, The Battle Rages OnAs a Korean War veteran, Charlie Louvin knows about one form of battle; now afflicted with pancreatic cancer, he knows about another form of battle and is right in the middle of it. Battles of a military and personal nature both inform his moving new CD, released this past November, and the subtext of its songs and of Louvin’s life is heroism born of extreme circumstances. This is some good Charlie Louvin here—he wins this battle, and here’s hoping he can prevail in his more personal one as well.

memoriesBOBBY OSBORNE & THE ROCKY TOP X-PRESS, MemoriesSubtitled “Celebrating Bobby’s 60th Anniversary as a Professional Entertainer,” bluegrass legend Bobby Osborne’s new Rural Rhythm CD pretty much explains why he’s been doing his thing at an exceedingly high level for more than a half century. Osborne and his Rocky Top X-Press make what they do as writers, players and singer sound ridiculously effortless, the surest sign of having spent thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of hours devoted to mastering their chosen musical genre—and each and every one of them will tell you they’re only beginning to figure it out.

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