Bluegrass Briefs – April 2023

This month’s set of Bluegrass related albums shows just how far a genre that was once seen as resolutely traditional and backward looking has come. With contemporary Country, Gypsy Jazz and English folk blending with the music we expect to hear with a “Bluegrass” tag attached to it.

The Davisson Brothers Band, who describe themselves as a “genre-blurring mountain rock band formed in Clarksburg, West Virginia” have a new album, ‘Home Is Where The Heart Is’. As seems to be the norm they are supplemented by a variety of special guests, including “Leftover Salmon’s Vince Herman, Ronnie Bowman, Kyle Tuttle, Lindsay Lou, and more”. Things get interesting on the second song ‘Mountain High’ which combines a Steve Earle style song with violin in the Charlie Daniels mould and electric guitar from the Derek Trucks end of blues. This may well appeal to those who approach Bluegrass from country music. There is a lot of electric guitar and the only really traditional Appalachian song is closer Morningstar.

Rowan Piggott & Joe Danks bonded over a shared passion for Old-Time Appalachian music and came together to form Old Spot. Their self-titled album is resolutely lo-fi in production and all the better for it. This is music from an earlier time with songs like ‘The Chances’ and ‘Billy In The Lowground’ are magical and sightly eerie in their use of space to give the quiet music a spellbinding quality. Jake Blount and Bill Monroe are amongst the influences they claim. They manage to imbue their music with the spirit of hills and mountains, Appalachians and Their native Derbyshire peak district.

Hayde Bluegrass Orchestra have released ‘The Broken Circle Sessions’. The Orchestra is an eight-member strong band from Oslo, Norway. As well as the instruments we expect to hear, fiddle, banjo, guitar, mandolin, they use brass and accordion t supplement the sound. Opener ‘Heaven and Hell’ is as much Mariachi as Bluegrass. The album was recoded live with anything up to 15 musicians on stage. Many of he tunes are from their previous album ‘Migrants’. Songs like ‘Smokey Mountain Railway’ take on a new life in concert. The dynamic performances, especially that of singer Rebekka Nilsson are as good as anything Nashville or New Orleans would offer.

Accomplice 2 is Tommy Emmanuel’s second collaboration album following on from the first in 2018. Starting with ‘Doc’s Guitar Black Mountain Rag’ featuring Billy Strings, a high-speed guitar chase that sets the tone for the album. The frenetic acoustic guitar pace lets up a bit on ‘Daddy Frank (The Guitar Man)’ a country flavoured song with Jamey Johnson. Most effective song here is ‘Another Man Done A Full Go Around’ which features Jorma Kaukonen. ‘Someone Like You’ has the distinctive voice of Michael McDonald on a pop/soul ballad which shows another side to Emmanuael’s music altogether. ‘Cajun Girl’ with Little Feat & Sam Bush is another “who would have thought it” song that works. At 16 songs this is a ling record but worth persevering with as a couple of gems lie at the end. ‘Tennessee Stud’ featuring the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and ‘Seven Come Eleven’ with David Grisman are both great with the latter almost coming across as Django style Jazz. Great album that you will end up danacing to.

California based Americana, Folk-Rock-Roots, Bluegrass band Rose’s Pawn Shop open their album, ‘Punch-Drunk Life’ with ‘Old Time Pugilist’.They are another band who use words like ‘genre bending’ and ‘fusion’ in their press. Their song writing leans towards pop and country, although their instrumentation is more traditionally based than some of the albums we’ve looked at this month. Gratitude has chart hit written all over it, as does the ‘The Lonely One’ which is enhanced by a Zydeco accordion and female backing vocals. If you must label their music, then roots rock is as good as anything. While they are steeped in Bluegrass, folk rock and country are as important in their sound. Another must listen album.

About Tim Martin 242 Articles
Sat in my shed listening to music, and writing about some of it. Occasionally allowed out to attend gigs.
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