march 2011

blueBLUE MOON RISING, Strange New World-- The upward arc that has been the career path of East Tennessee’s Blue Moon Rising since its self-released 2001 debut continues unimpeded, and arguably reaches its highest trajectory yet, on the Randy Kohrs-produced Strange New World. Again it is the songs and, mostly, the muscular voice of group founder/leader Chris West setting the pace. Let it be said West has never before imparted as dark a vision of the world as he does this time out, and the sheer relentlessness of that vision is rather breathtaking--uplifting, not so much, but breathtaking, disturbing even, yes indeed.

bluegrassVARIOUS ARTISTS, A Bluegrass Gospel Songbook--A diverse and stirring collection, Rounder’s A Bluegrass Gospel Songbook is a worth successor to the label’s similarly constructed 2003 anthology, White Dove: The Bluegrass Gospel Collection. More so than the earlier title, this entry digs deeper into the Rounder catalogue for some lesser known artists to add to a formidable, fundamental lineup of bluegrass stalwarts.

lawsTHE LAWS, Try Love--Hard to listen to The Laws without comparing them favorably to the first great Canadian husband-wife country-folk-rock duo, Ian & Sylvia. Which is not to suggest John and Michelle are in the same territory yet, but they’re saying something, and they’re getting close. Pay attention now.

smithVALERIE SMITH & LIBERTY PIKE, Blame It On The Bluegrass--The way I see it, anything that gets Valerie Smith & Liberty Pike in front of a microphone, whether in a recording studio or on a concert stage, is a good thing. So to those who might grouse about this tidy Blame It On The Bluegrass album clocking in at slightly less than 20 minutes and containing but six songs, please--be thankful for what you got. It so happens that what Valerie Smith can do with six songs equals what many other artists take a dozen or more to accomplish.

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