We have been checking out the new albums that have been released over the last week or two. These are the ones that caught our eye (and ears!!)
THE EARLS OF LEICESTER – ‘RATTLE AND ROAR’
A review of this album wouldn’t be complete unless we briefly touch upon the musical legacy that it attempts to recreate. Bluegrass fans will be aware that the premier exponent of this genre of music for over 20 years spanning from the late 1940’s to 1970 were The Foggy Mountain Boys.
The band was founded by Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs. Scruggs is widely recognised as the premier banjo player ever, period. They hosted and performed at the Grand Ole Opry with their bluegrass show and had numerous top 20 singles and albums.
The Earls Of Leicester were assembled by Jerry Douglas in 2013 to present the music of Flatt and Scruggs to a modern audience using state of the art recording techniques.
Their first album, which was self-titled, received a Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album. The name of the band is a play on the names of Flatt and Scruggs.
Two years later they are back with a second revamp of the standards. Alongside Douglas, four members of the original cast return. The fiddle player is Johnny Warren who is the son of Paul Warren the original fiddle player with The Foggy Mountain Boys. The change is on mandolin where Jeff White replaces Tim O’Brien.
There are 17 tracks on offer. How does it stack up against the first offering? Pretty well we believe, although it’s natural that the better and more recognisable songs appeared on the first album.
There are enough quality tunes to interest the casual Bluegrass fan and followers of Flatt and Scruggs back catalogue will love it. If you were a fan of the first offering there is nothing here that will discourage you.
WHISKEY MORNING – ‘THE HERE AND NOW’
We reviewed the latest offering from The Honeycutters a few weeks ago and liked what we heard. There are certain similarities here with the new album from St Louis based band Whiskey Morning.
Suzy Bacino is the founder of the band, plays guitar, writes the songs and sings most of them. They describe themselves as a country band with a classic sound, killer harmonies and good old fashioned twang.
Their profile is very small to date but there are highlights here that may improve that. It wasn’t the best choice to open the collection with ‘I’m Your Girl’ however. The 70s guitar chords was classic Status Quo, not the “classic sound” that we were looking for.
Thankfully things improved considerably with ‘The Here and Now’. Bob Breidenbach’s pedal steel is at the forefront of a foot-tapper which is the track that raises this album above the masses.
This isn’t a one-track album however. ‘Family Tree’ is also very worthy of your attention and the band have also included a tribute to Dwight Yoakam ‘With Love, Dwight’ which clearly embodies their love for the greats of country music.
St Louis isn’t necessarily a hot bed for country music but credit where it’s due Whiskey Morning’s album is one that certainly raises its head above the parapet.
We recommend that you check it out.
TRAVIS GREEN – ‘A LITTLE TOO LATE’
We pride ourselves here in the UK for our healthy country music scene but it’s easy to overlook the part that is also played by the Scandinavian countries, particularly Norway and Sweden.
The latest album from Austin Texas singer Travis Green is produced by Christoffer “Kid” Anderson, an accomplished blues guitarist. Green is presently embarking upon a mini Swedish tour to promote the album.
The blues influence is prevalent throughout, particularly on ‘The Only Love’, a song that features Anderson’s masterful blues guitar riffs.
There are a number of musical styles represented on this album. It ranges from rockabilly to straight country to country blues but never allows you to get comfortable in one genre.
Greens high pitched vocals reminded us of early Neil Sedaka at times, particularly on ‘Keep Me Off Your Mind’ and the opening riffs to ‘Everybody Knows’ is extremely ‘Mustang Sally’!
There is enough to keep us country fans on board though. ‘Damage Done’ and ‘Please Don’t Cry’ hit the spot with their combination of slides and piano.
It’s a real mixed bag that is hard to categorise. There might not be enough to satisfy the country hard core fans but it’s certainly an interesting mix of styles and influences.
VOLUME FIVE – ‘DRIFTER’
A band that certainly satisfy the country traditionalists, particularly those who like their music with a bluegrass feel, are Volume Five.
They return with ‘Drifter’, their sixth album. They were formed by vocalist and fiddle player Glenn Harrell in 2008 and have been steadily building up a reputation as a band that has a formidable live show and songs that resonate with country fans in general.
This five-piece band are all very accomplished musicians but the songs, particularly the slower tracks, are the stand-outs here.
The opener ‘I Am A Drifter’ naturally tells the story of someone who isn’t able to plant roots. It was written by Donna Ulisse and Marc Ross and has already had success on the US Bluegrass chart reaching #1. It has the traditional Bluegrass feel but also an engaging melody that will have you singing along.
Another song that has been crossing over to other radio formats is ‘When I Go Away’ which has a bluesy feel and very effective vocal interplay between the group members.
The absolute stand outs are the ballads ‘Because Of You’ and ‘Scarecrow’. The former has a sublime fiddle intro that totally draws you in. This song is absolutely up there with the best and is a fine indication of Harrell’s musical prowess. ‘Scarecrow’ allows Harrell’s soulful vocals to totally sell the song without ever detracting from the very fine musical prowess that accompanies him.
‘Tall Pines’ is the classic Bill Monroe song that is covered here in the Volume Five style.
This is an album that will impress country music fans in general. It displays the best of what Bluegrass has to offer.
It’s an impressive introduction to the band and may inspire delving into their back catalogue.