The Spinney Brothers’ “No Borders”

(HVBA) Dick Bowden recently wrote a compelling cover story about the Spinney Brothers for Bluegrass Unlimited. Titled “On the road with the Spinney Brothers” (April, 2013) Bowden gives an account of one leg of the Spinney Brothers’ summer 2012 tour, following the band from the moment they leave the Bluegrass in the Hills festival inContinue reading “The Spinney Brothers’ “No Borders””

Review, “The Music is You: a tribute to John Denver”

(KDHX) There are lots of tribute albums around, though they are a curious bird. The assumption we make as consumers is that the people who contribute do so because they were inspired by the person whose work they are paying tribute to. I once bought a tribute CD to Jimmy Rogers that opened with aContinue reading “Review, “The Music is You: a tribute to John Denver””

Review: Della Mae, “This World Oft Can Be”

(HVBA) Well, if you want to get on my good side, cover a song from Laura Boosinger, and indeed that’s how Della Mae starts this collection. “Letter from Down the Road” is a traditional song with new words and arrangement from Boosinger, and the version included here is a very faithful romp through a delightfulContinue reading “Review: Della Mae, “This World Oft Can Be””

Heidi Talbot’s “Angels without Wings”

(KDHX) Here’s how every review of Heidi Talbot opens: Talbot is from County Kildare, Ireland, and famously was a member of the Irish-American all-female supergroup Cherish the Ladies. The reviews for her new album, “Angels Without Wings,” likewise will all tell you in the first paragraph that Jerry Douglas and Mark Knopfler play on thisContinue reading “Heidi Talbot’s “Angels without Wings””

Interview with Chris Eldridge

(KDHX) I reached guitarist Chris Eldridge at his home in Brooklyn, N.Y., during a break from a tour that will eventually bring Punch Brothers to St. Louis and the Sheldon Concert Hall on January 25. Eldridge noted that it was nice to have a break from the road, to see friends and to sleep inContinue reading “Interview with Chris Eldridge”

John Driskell Hopkins and Balsam Range, “Daylight”

(HVBA) It’s pretty much impossible to discuss John Driskell Hopkins without discussing Zac Brown, and there are a number of reasons for that. Brown, though still young, is one of those people who has more energy than any single person rightfully should—he’s a Grammy winner, he’s run a restaurant, tours incessantly, is a father ofContinue reading “John Driskell Hopkins and Balsam Range, “Daylight””

The Deerings and the American Dream

Published in the Kruger Brothers Newsletter, December 2012. It’s one of the great stories in the history of fretted instrument building in the US: In 1970 Sam Radding began a small manufacturing shop to serve a local community of musicians in the greater San Diego area. Small, unassuming, not a little bit rag-tag, it wasContinue reading “The Deerings and the American Dream”

Old Man Luedecke’s “Tender is the Night”

(KDHX) Tender Is the Night is the fifth solo collection from Old Man (Chris) Luedecke, and it feels like some of the musical ideas he’s been working with are really beginning to gel. His writing has always been very strong, remaining true to the roots of American folk and country music, though dealing with modernContinue reading “Old Man Luedecke’s “Tender is the Night””

Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott’s “We’re Usually a Lot Better than This”

(KDHX) In 2000 Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott released “Real Time,” a gorgeous album of duets by two complete masters of instrumentation, arrangement, and performance. Beautiful. Then they toured it, and pretty much immediately demonstrated that there was a dimension to their playing that the recording lacked; it was a studio piece, and didn’t entirelyContinue reading “Tim O’Brien and Darrell Scott’s “We’re Usually a Lot Better than This””

An interview with Darrell Scott

(KDHX) There are no easy labels for Darrell Scott. In his career he’s been a first-call session musician in Nashville, a songwriter, performer, collaborator and producer — and he recently toured with Robert Plant as part of his Band of Joy. In Scott’s world, it’s not that he’s all over the map, but rather it’sContinue reading “An interview with Darrell Scott”

A Fiddler’s Holiday, Jay Ungar and Molly Mason Family Band

(HVBA) Partnering with an orchestra seems to be the thing to do these days. Bela Fleck did it last year with his concerto, as did the Kruger Brothers, as did Ricky Skaggs with the Boston Pops a few years ago, as did Cherryholmes before they disbanded. It’s easy to wonder what the impulse is. TheContinue reading “A Fiddler’s Holiday, Jay Ungar and Molly Mason Family Band”

Claire Lynch, “Hills of Alabam”

(HVBA) While “The Hills of Alabam” is a new release, the material all dates from the early 1980s or thereabouts—it’s a compilation of material from two Front Porch String Band albums (the only ones that were ever released) with the one exception being “The Day that Lester Died” which comes from Mark Newton’s album “FollowContinue reading “Claire Lynch, “Hills of Alabam””

Mark O’Connor and Rieko Aizawa, “American Classics”

(KDHX) I think it’s probably safe to say that this album won’t appear on many year-end best of 2012 lists this year, likely because it’s really a kind of teaching tool: a presentation of the pieces that O’Connor included in his fiddle method books. O’Connor is interested in building a sound fiddle teaching method basedContinue reading “Mark O’Connor and Rieko Aizawa, “American Classics””

Music for the fall: Art Tatum and Ben Webster

(KDHX) The things we desire in the fall—the movies we want to watch, the soups we want to cook, the music we want to hear—are expressions, I think, of what we want the fall to be. For me, if summer is the colouring outside the lines of the Grateful Dead—what I think of as quintessentiallyContinue reading “Music for the fall: Art Tatum and Ben Webster”

Dave Gunning’s “No More Pennies”

(KDHX) Sometimes with new albums, as is the case with David Gunning’s “No More Pennies,” it’s as much about the packaging as it is the music. First the music: David Gunning is very much a songwriter of the Canadian Maritimes, and in this release he  revisits so many of the themes we commonly see fromContinue reading “Dave Gunning’s “No More Pennies””

The fiddles of Phil Elsworthy

(Penguin Eggs) Make even the slightest adjustment to a violin design—add a string, use a different scroll shape—and you can turn heads, which is true of the work of Phil Elsworthy, an instrument maker from Waterloo, Ontario. Extra strings, fingerboard inlay, a square scroll—in the staid world of violin design, Elsworthy’s fiddles aren’t for theContinue reading “The fiddles of Phil Elsworthy”

Caroline Herring’s “Camilla”

(KDHX) I’m not certain that this is Herring’s best album to date, and then again I’m not sure that it isn’t. But what I am sure of is that it continues, beautifully, what she has been up to since her first solo release, “Twilight,” in 2001. Herring writes, it would appear, because of a desireContinue reading “Caroline Herring’s “Camilla””

Chris Smither’s “Hundred Dollar Valentine”

(KDHX) As I listen to this new collection, which is just as good as anything he’s done in his career if not better, I can’t help wondering why Smither isn’t better known. In 2006 he released the glorious “Leave the Light On,” with a title track that feels like an instant classic (though, in aContinue reading “Chris Smither’s “Hundred Dollar Valentine””

Kruger Brothers’ “Best of the Kruger Brothers”

Liner notes from the Kruger Brothers’ 2012 release, Best of the Kruger Brothers In the liner notes to the album Forever and a Day Uwe wrote that, “When we began our career in 1975, nothing could have prepared us for the journey that lay ahead.” As we approach the 40th anniversary of that beginning, itContinue reading “Kruger Brothers’ “Best of the Kruger Brothers””

Kelly Joe Phelps “Brother Sinner and the Whale”

(KDHX) So much of the traditional, roots, and country songbook, is about death, family, and God, with likely an over-representation of the latter. Ralph Stanley, both with his brother Carter and later in his solo career, seems to rarely about much else, though I don’t think we’d call him a gospel artist. And while I’mContinue reading “Kelly Joe Phelps “Brother Sinner and the Whale””

Finding Appalachia

Liner essay for the Kruger Brothers’ CD release Appalachian Concerto   The Appalachian Concerto is a very different kind of recording for the Kruger Brothers, and is without any true precedents within their catalogue to date. Still, if there are any real surprises in this work, perhaps the greatest is how entirely natural and obviousContinue reading “Finding Appalachia”

Steve Spurgin’s “Folk Remedies”

(KDHX) You never know, but Steve Spurgin’s Folk Remedies might be the best album of 2012.  We could probably argue at length, if we wanted to, about what makes good music good. Despite the fact that we all have different tastes, different opinions, we feel in our bones that we can recognise good music whenContinue reading “Steve Spurgin’s “Folk Remedies””

Bela Fleck and the Marcus Roberts Trio “Across the Imaginary Divide”

(KDHX) Bela Fleck is great. Now if only he could swing. “Across the Imaginary Divide” is another foray for Bela Fleck into jazz, coupling with a pianist much as he has done with Chick Corea in their live shows and on their CD “The Enchantment” (2007). The trio is filled out by Rodney Jordan onContinue reading “Bela Fleck and the Marcus Roberts Trio “Across the Imaginary Divide””

Mike Comptons’ “Rotten Taters”

(KDHX) “Rotten Taters” is, unbelievably, the first solo release from a mandolinist that, despite playing Carnegie Hall and the White House, simply should be more widely known than he is. There are lots of reasons for making albums, and Mike Compton’s Rotten Taters is one that was made for the best reason of all: becauseContinue reading “Mike Comptons’ “Rotten Taters””

Jimmy Gaudreau and Moondi Klein’s “Home from the Mills”

(KDHX) If you’re looking for a hidden gem, “Home from the Mills”–by bluegrass veterans Jimmy Gaudreau and Moondi Klein–is it. Both artists, while lesser known, have been in the A-league of bluegrass music for decades, playing in bands with lots of names you know well: Bela Fleck, Tony Rice, JD Crowe, Mike Auldridge, the CountryContinue reading “Jimmy Gaudreau and Moondi Klein’s “Home from the Mills””

Punch Brothers’ “Who’s Feeling Young Now?”

Reviewed for KDHX Radio, St. Louis “Who’s Feeling Young Now?” will prove to be one of the most respected, lauded, challenging and influential works of the year. But that doesn’t mean you’ll like it.   This is a band that I admire immensely, and there is no doubt that their talent is simply staggering. AsContinue reading “Punch Brothers’ “Who’s Feeling Young Now?””

Noam Pikelny’s “Beat the Devil and Carry a Rail”

For KDHX Radio, St. Louis In “Beat the Devil and Carry a Rail,” his latest solo release, Noam Pikelny has created a moving, playful collection that features so much top-flight playing it can make your head spin. Pikelny’s main gig these days is as banjo player for the Punch Brothers, a band that he co-foundedContinue reading “Noam Pikelny’s “Beat the Devil and Carry a Rail””

Sarah Jarosz’s “Follow Me Down”

If Sarah Jarosz is unfamiliar to you, the support she has on her second album, released just shy of her 20th birthday, will ring lots of bells: Bela Fleck, Edgar Myers, Dan Tyminski, Shawn Colvin, Darrell Scott, Mark Shatz, Jerry Douglas, Chris Thile, Noam Pikelny, and the list of guest artists just keeps going. ByContinue reading “Sarah Jarosz’s “Follow Me Down””

Si Kahn then, Si Kahn now

Published in Penguin Eggs, Autumn, 2010. Si Kahn first learned of the power of song—perhaps like so many in the 60s—from his work in activism. In his recent book Creative Community Organizing: A guide for rabble rousers, activists, and quiet lovers of justice, he writes about his experience as a skinny, dewy kid from theContinue reading “Si Kahn then, Si Kahn now”