If you think a band carrying the name Wilson Banjo & Co would be a hard driving, banjo based bluegrass band you'd be on the right track. Steve honed his bluegrass and luthier skills while with Gibson in Nashville, and last year released an EP with friends as a way to promote his custom banjos.

When the EP started drawing radio attention it was time to put together a full-time band, in addition to Steve the band is Joey Newton (guitar and vocals), Sarah Logan (fiddle and vocals), Dylan Armour (Dobro), Rob Walker (bass), Brandon Couch (mandolin). And while the band may be banjo driven, there is much fine picking going on with these great musicians.

You'll recognize many of the tunes on this album; "40 Years Of Trouble" and "Catfish John" being the two opening tunes. "Carolina In the Pines" and "Ain't No Grave" also take on prominent places. Most importantly to any band expecting to go places, you can't just cover a tune, you need to make it your own, and this band succeeds quite nicely, adding a fresh spirit and a bit of a punch to all their tunes.

Billy Parker is a powerful mandolinist from Phoenix, AZ. Mandoclectic is Billy Parker’s imaginative and thoughtful collection of songs and tunes that demonstrate both his personal vision and his respect for different musical influences. Fundamentally, this recording is a joy to listen to.

There is an artist at work here. Billy is front and center on this recording. He is the focus– in the way a solo recording should be– and it’s surprising to me how often that idea gets lost in other individual’s recordings. Whether singing lead or coming up with original instrumentals, Billy is letting you know that this is his record. I love that.

Let me say right up front that Marc Rennard is my kind of fiddler. Marc’s fiddling is a proper extension of himself: powerful, engaging and steeped in the tradition. Earthenware is a welcome and long overdue introduction to Marc’s fiddling, both in terms of his creativity and his well-chosen, thoughtful repertoire of tunes. Marc Rennard hails from the great state of Missouri, though he now lives in Tucson, Arizona. On this recording, he presents the work from two different recording sessions, one based in St. Louis, MO and the other in Tucson, AZ.

Imagine for a moment a person who has spent his life holding, playing and working on fiddles– and listening to fiddle music. Marc could make music out of a shoebox fiddle; but that’s just to say that his feel for the instrument is visceral, knowledgeable and natural. You want to listen. There is humor here, but no nonsense. His original tunes are sculpted from the meanderings of the mind, but the framework is pure old-time fiddle.

Too Blue is an outstanding band in the Northeast and the HVBA is beyond proud and excited that they will be returning to our stage. “To quote Bill Monroe, ‘This is powerful music!’ With Too Blue, the total is much more than the sum of the parts, and the parts are mighty fine…” – Barry Mitterhoff, mandolinist with Jorma Kaukonen.

Traveling freely between the genres of bluegrass, swing, Celtic and jazz, a Too Blue performance is a dynamic dose of serious fun. Smooth harmonies and adventurous musicianship bring stellar arrangements to life and leave the listener anything but “blue”. Their newest release, “Trouble With the Grey”, produced and engineered by Bob Harris of Ampersand Records, has received national radio airplay and enthusiastic reviews from Bluegrass Today and Bluegrass Unlimited.

The band I Draw Slow hails from Ireland, and is fronted by brother and sister Dave (guitar+vocals) and Louise Holden (vocals), backed on fiddle by Adrian Hart, clawhammer banjo by Colin Derham, and bassist Konrad Liddy, with the Holdens picking up the songwriting. Their bluegrass is closer to folk, with Celtic accents added by Louise's vocals and an Irish fiddle accent added by Adrian's playing. Can we use a new term and call it alt-bluegrass? :-)

Turn Your Face To The Sun is the band's fourth album, but the band still has tricks up it's sleeve. Alt-bluegrass indeed! The album opens with "Maria," which not only contains the line "turn your face to the sun," but is accompanied by a shining trumpet line that adds a brightness to the tune that is much like looking to the warm morning sun.

To be right up front this is not a bluegrass review, but I'm a firm believer that good music is good music, and great music is better!

Those of us old enough, or retro enough, to journey into bluegrass accompanied by some of the classic "country-rock" bands of the 60's may well reminisce about the sweet sounds of The Byrds or The Flying Burrito Brothers. Well, the good news is that Chris Hillman is back with 'Bidin' My Time', his first studio album in ten years. The great news is that he's brought some great tunes and some good friends along with him (David Crosby, Roger McGuinn, Tom Petty, Herb Pederson)


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