When it comes to mixing genres you’re going to have to decide if this album is bluegrass with a country twang, or high and lonesome country. There is a fine line between good old-fashioned country music and traditional bluegrass, and this album does a great job in straddling it.
Lorraine has been fronting Carolina Road for 15 years now, and not only are all the parts working well together, but the awards and recognition are rolling in; the latest are SPBGMA’s 2015 Female Traditional Vocalist of the Year for Lorraine, 2015 Song of the Year for “That’s Kentucky,” and 2015 Banjo Player of the Year for Ben Green. Besides Lorraine (lead vocals and mandolin) and Ben (bass vocals along with banjo) the band is the award winning Josh Goforth on fiddle and baritone vocals, Tommy Long on lead guitar and vocals, Jason Moore on bass and Brad Hudson on dobro and lead vocals. I have to note that in reading through the band’s bios that the James King Band comes up more than once, and that’s got to be a sign of the band having a great foundation in traditional bluegrass.
If they didn’t plan this album just to mark their fifteenth year, they sure turn it into a celebration – they’ve brought in guest lead vocalists for twelve of the thirteen songs on Country Grass (the last song is an instrumental). I don’t come from a country music background, so I can’t give the lead singers all they’re due, but I can paraphrase an old quote and say “I know good music when I hear it.” The guests range through Crystal Gayle, The Kentucky Headhunters, Lee Greenwood, Ronnie Reno and more.
Although the guest vocalists change from song to song, the band stays the same, and with repeated listening I find fair comparison to the classic bluegrass sounds of the Dillards, solid playing all around with a distinct banjo drive – and what would bluegrass be without the banjo?
“You Can Have Her”
I’ll throw you some of my favorites: The album opens with a banjo romp through the Kentucky Headhunter’s “Runnin’ Water” with Doug Phelps on lead. “Common Man” with John Conlee and Brad Hudson takes bluegrass on a spin down a country road in their pickup truck. “Dixie Road” with Lee Greenwood and Troy Pope bring in the slide guitar and some sweet country harmonies. “You Can Have Her” with Jim Ed Brown and Tommy Long is on the jazzy side with some Willie Nelson (and Frank Sinatra) sensibilities. There’s a lot more to be said for this album, but I think I can sum things up a simple observation; if you prefer your country without the cowboy hats and rhinestones, and your bluegrass traditional, then this is a fine place to start.