If you need more evidence that Boston is one of the cutting edges of the new string band sound, you only need to drop Cold Chocolate's self-titled new album onto your choice of media player for confirmation. Billing themselves as a fusion of roots and bluegrass with a touch of funk, a couple of listens to the album finds the emphasis on old-time and even a touch of jazz to go along with some of the 'grass. "Roots" is indeed an apt description. If rock hadn't already grabbed "Americana" as a genre, I would surely have applied it for this band.
When I heard that Smithsonian Folkways was releasing a collection of classic American ballads, I was intrigued, maybe a bit excited, and also assumed that I would love it. Given that I’ve just said that, I guess it’s clear that the album is, at least in some ways, a disappointment.
The Smithsonian Folkways collection is vast in ways that we likely can’t even fathom. Its collections include, for example, all of the field recordings that John Lomax made beginning in 1907. Those recordings alone are astonishing, again in more ways than we can reasonably appreciate, though the collection also includes everything—the entire archive—of Moses Asch and Folkways records. Huge. And there’s lots more, too. If there is a Mount Rushmore of American song, the Smithsonian collection is it.
Honey from a black locust tree is sweeter than average and sometimes so clear it barely colors the glass that holds it. The music of the Ashville-based Locust Honey String Band's newest CD, Never Let Me Cross Your MInd, has that same cast of semi- transparent purity. Georgia-born singer and fiddler Chloe Edmonstone, joined by guitarist and singer Meredith Watson, seem to be heart of the group. The album has a profoundly old time feel, from Edmonstone’s hard-driving fiddle breakdowns ( see “Boogerman” and “Logan County Blues”) to the piney-sounding vocal duet of “I’ve Forgotten More Than You’ll Ever Know About Her.”
Jayme Stone’s latest project is a big one: over the course of 19 tracks he pays tribute to song collector and musicologist Alan Lomax, who would have been 100 this year. Lomax has had more influence on folk and roots music than most of us know, and then some. Stone has gathered a fantastic group of musicians to survey all the corners of the musical world that, at one time or another, attracted Lomax’s attention, from the hollows of Appalachia to the Caribbean.
So, do you have a favorite bluegrass band from Australia yet? If you don't even know that Australia has bluegrass/Americana bands, you owe it to yourself to check out The Mid North and see what you're missing!
The Mid-North has just released their sophomore album Tales From A Mountain, which continues in the same rich vein of bluegrass/Americana as their debut album You Were Right About The Stars. Hey, when you have a good thing going you don't give it up, and given the breadth of The Mid North's "good thing" from bluegrass, folk, Americana, and gospel (along with a touch of jug band) they aren't about to run out of material anytime too soon.