Reviews

Review: James King - Three Chords And The Truth

Some types of music have a longer shelf life than others, and I think bluegrass is one of them. Recordings of, say, the Dry Branch Fire Squad made in the 1980s hold up just as well today as when they were recorded. Certainly there are lots of albums like that, ones that were recorded simply, staying apart from whatever musical and music production fads were popular at the time. Ricky Skaggs and Tony Rice sound so young on “Skaggs and Rice”—it was recorded in 1980—though it holds up, and we don’t approach it today as a time piece (at least I don’t).

Steep Canyon Rangers: Tell The Ones I Love

Culturally, we seem to like the idea of the struggling artist, someone who suffers for their work and who’s work seems to benefit from the struggle that goes into it. Would we revere people like Hemingway, for example, if their lives were idyllic and the only drama was in the pages of their books. I’m not sure the work would seem as honest, and that’s true in music as well. Roni Stoneman was a banjo player with the storied Stoneman family, and her relatives were there with the Carter Family at the Bristol sessions. She went on to star on Hee Haw and, when that was over, descended into crushing poverty and abuse at the hands of her husband. I heard her in interview once when she was asked to give advice to a 12-year-old musician. Stoneman said, “Enjoy the music that you play, because, most of the time, that’s about all you’re going to get out of it.”

Noam Pikelny Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe

 

If there is a God in heaven, this heartbreaking recording must win best recorded event, or best instrumental by people who don’t normally appear together, or whatever the hell IBMA has for award categories now. I found it a near-religious experience, so nominate it for gospel recording for all I care.

Review: Ron Block - Walking Song

Listening to this disc, I wished that I had no idea who Ron Block is or any of the things he’s done in his career. By any measure, he’s done a lot, most notably as a member of Alison Krauss and Union Station for twenty years. On his own, he’s released two collections prior to this one, and they—as this one—are populated by a lot of very high-powered musical friends. His previous releases were more overtly dedicated to his gospel writing, which can often come off as preachy and lacking much depth or dimension.

Review: Donna The Buffalo - Tonight, Tomorrow & Yesterday

OK let me say it upfront, this ain’t Bluegrass. So why is this review appearing on the HVBA website? Simple, this is a great album by a great band.

Donna the Buffalo is one of the most respected “Americana” bands on the scene today. “Americana” music, that ubiquitous term that refers to a combination of American musical traditions and styles including folk, traditional, country, blues, and other “roots” music forms. But the label hardly fits the experience.

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