My colleague Paul Kerr started reporting on the Albums and EPs which don’t make the cut for a full review with his Short Cuts recently. But there is an area of Americana that sits on its own and deserves a feature to itself. Welcome to AUK’s bluegrass briefs…
First up are New England band Grain Thief with a live album, called ‘Ain’t Hungover Yet’, recorded in 2021 at the Podunk Bluegrass festival. Live Bluegrass can either end up sounding sterile or as is the case here a rawer immediate sound. Leaving in the stage announcements captures an “on the night” vibe. The traditional lineup gives plenty of space for Violin, Mandolin and guitars to shine. Singer Patrick Mulroy gives it his all on the more serious songs, like ‘Nightmare’. There are some Old Timey and less serious songs as well, the best being the opening pair of ‘Diesel Baby’ and old-timey tunes like ‘Tennessee Stud’
Charlie Treat’s ‘Into The Wild Mystic Mountain’ claims to be “in the raw, rootsy tradition of greats like Bill Monroe, and Flatt and Scruggs”. Musically that is pretty accurate. The best song here is ‘Lorraine’, although ‘Mama Hen’ runs it close. The video is fun as well. The musicianship is top drawer, even if Treat makes matters harder for himself by picking keys outside the comfort zone for his singing sometimes.
Lastly this time is Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard ‘Pioneering Women of Bluegrass: The Definitive Edition‘. They “shattered the glass ceiling of male-dominated bluegrass in the 1960s.” This album collects all the songs from their 2 albums along with a bonus track. A rather raw live album was relased a few years ago, but this is the real thing. The album is remastered from the last go-round in 1996 with a much improved sound thanks to producer Peter Siegel. This is a historical document as much as a good listen, but as Dickens and Gerrard are quoted as influences by the likes of Molly Tuttle, The Judds, and Kathleen Hanna it’s worth a listen.