Bluegrass Briefs – Meris Gantt, Marshall Monrad Band, David Sasso, Daryl Mosley, Darren Nicholson

Bluegrass can end up falling into the trap of repeating a set of formulaic, based on “the tradition”. Over the last couple of Bluegrass Briefs, we have found a variety of styles creeping in that are reenergizing the genre. This time we have some artists who respect the traditions but use the tropes to create something that take the undoubted delights of the Bluegrass formula and reach out to listeners who may not always be convinced by the high speed soloing, Banjos, mandolins and Stetsons that are what those not familiar with the depth of Bluegrass can associate with it.

North Carolina “Bluegrass Folk” musician, Meris Gantt’s new EP ‘Forced Revival’ starts at the folk end of her brief with ‘Don’t Let Me Lie’. An acoustic guitar and fiddle tune that would be as at home in Cornwall as Carolina. The remainder of the songs fit into the same folk ballad mould with the Bluegrass influence coming mostly from the singing style. The best song is left until last with ‘Closer’, although the delicate Banjo picking on ‘We Got Time’ runs it very close. If your tastes run to quiet, introspective songs then this is an essential listen.


The Marshall Monrad Band offer something more traditionally Bluegrass on their album ‘keystones’. Close harmony singing is the main feature of ‘Leavin’ Kind’, along with undemonstrative solos from Banjo and Dobro. A number of guests appear across the album. ‘Get Off of This Train’ – features Stephen Ackles, a Norwegian vocalist and pianist, on a Bluesy piece, that has a very American Gothic feel to it. The instrumental ‘Damn That Woman’ is the liveliest tune, on an album that is worth seeking out if you aren’t sure if Bluegrass is for you as it manages to embrace the tradition without falling into the cliches. Another highly recommended listen.

David Sasso’sSasson v’Simcha’ (Joy and Delight) is an intriguing “collection of bluegrass and bluegrass-inspired settings of the traditional Jewish Friday night Shabbat liturgy in Hebrew. The music was composed by Connecticut-based musician, David Sasso, and recorded by David along with Boston-based group, Jacob’s Ladder”. The change of language pushed the emphasis onto the sound rather than the words. The Klezmer and almost Turkish influences on the sound of these tunes, particularly in the fiddle playing adds a different dimension to the songs. It’s still very much Bluegrass, but with a subtle twist that makes it all feel familiar yet new, and it’s great.

Sasson v’Simcha by David Sasso


Daryl Mosley’sA Life Well Lived’ is another album at the folk end of Bluegrass. There is rather more Bluegrass and Country in the mix than Meris Gantt, especially in Mosley’s vocals. The title song, ‘When We Were Boys’ and ‘Mayberry State Of Mind’ are state of the art bluegrass with just enough folk to avoid the cliché’s but still be based in the Bluegrass tradition. The Beautiful ballad ‘Nobody But Her’ should be picked up by Alison Krauss, and her solo work is a good comparison for the overall style of this lovely album.


Darren Nicholson was previously in Bluegrass band Balsam range and has now produced a solo album, ‘Wanderer’. Opening with a Banjo picking song, ‘Arkansas Without You’, the album is the closest we have to “traditional” bluegrass we have this time. ‘Talkin’ To The Moon’ and the slow waltz, ‘Love of a Woman’ are the standout songs. If you want to dip your toe into Bluegrass then this is as good an album as I’ve heard this year in the “straight” bluegrass genre.


About Tim Martin 247 Articles
Sat in my shed listening to music, and writing about some of it. Occasionally allowed out to attend gigs.
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