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Review: “Lloyd Loar Mandolins” by Tony Williamson

Lloyd Loar MandolinsBy Joe Ross
Tony Williamson’s Lloyd Loar Mandolins (Mandolin Central MCP0065) is the ultimate and quintessential mandolin tasting. Featuring solo performances by Tony Williamson, the CD has a baker’s dozen of the world’s finest mandolins, most signed and dated by the legendary acoustical engineer Lloyd Loar. Brilliant craftsmen built these instruments in the Gibson factory of Kalamazoo, Michigan, in a two-year period beginning December 1922, except for two which were shipped out a few years later with no signatures.

Review: Life Goes On: Musicians Against Childhood Cancer

 Musicians Against Childhood Cancer (MACC)By Joe Ross
Back in 2006, Skaggs Family Records released Celebration of Life: Musicians Against Childhood Cancer (MACC), a two-CD collection with over two hours of live music that drew from the 2000-2005 MACC Festival in Columbus, Ohio. It became one of bluegrass music's top ten releases in 2006 and won the International Bluegrass Music Assn.'s Album of the Year Award. On the Rural Rhythm Records label, "Life Goes On" is the 2012 sequel to the original release and draws material from the 2006-2011 festivals.

Review: Steep Canyon Rangers: Nobody Knows You

Nobody Knows YouBy Joe Ross
I once predicted that The Steep Canyon Rangers, by the time their members were thirty, would be well-known far and wide for their brilliant performances and excellent recordings. Now, this tight unit from western North Carolina could be one of the most recognizable bands in bluegrass today. Besides having talent and youthful appeal, their familiarity was definitely boosted by being comedian, actor, and musician Steve Martin's backup band. They were Grammy nominated for their 2011 album collaboration with Martin called Rare Bird Alert. Following some excellent releases on Rebel Records, the band now debuts on Rounder.

Review: Richard D. Henry - A Long Way From Home

Bluegrass Solution with Richard D. HenryBy Joe Ross
Hey there, this week's review is about a project of original material from Texan Richard D. Henry. You all should check it out. Please read on if you'd like to know more.

Review - Jordan Tice Trio: The Secret History

The Secret Historyby Joe Ross
It's been nearly seven years since I reviewed Jordan Tice's No Better Place album (Patuxent CD-0126). Is the young guitarist still presenting an enjoyable, highly-arranged instrumental elixir? Has he further refined his style? Has he become even more seasoned, mature, and exceptional than he was back then as a young high school grad? Or is he now experiencing a seven-year itch and moving on to other things? Happily, I can report that the sonic alchemist still conveys abundant character and individualism in his original music. His 2005 album included an illustrious cast of guests who were given plenty of opportunities to strut their stuff. I understand that his 2008 Long Story album also included an all-star cast.s

Review: Carolina Road - Back to My Roots

Back To My RootsBy Joe Ross
It's been about four or five years since I reviewed Carolina Road's two album releases on Tom T. Hall's Blue Circle Records label. I found the hardworking band from North Carolina to be fully dedicated to presenting a traditional bluegrass sound with a copious amount of personalized contemporary charisma. Now associated with Rural Rhythm Records, this is the band's second release on that label. While the band has experienced a few personnel changes on guitar and bass over the years, the stability in this group are still Lorraine Jordan (mandolin, vocals), Josh Goforth (fiddle, vocals), and Ben Greene (banjo, vocals). They bring strength and solidity to the table. The band's newest members are Tommy Long (guitar, lead vocals) and Eddie Biggerstaff (bass). Both have plenty of experience and fit right in.

Review: Various Artists - Bill Monroe: 100th Year Celebration - Live At Bean Blossom

Live at Bean BlossomBy Joe Ross
A CD sampler of live cuts from a bluegrass festival can rarely capture the real feeling and spirit of those special musical moments when bands play their hearts out to thousands of fans. However, second best to actually being there, some favorite LPs of mine were those double disc sets with many professional bluegrass bands driving their sounds from a festival's stage. The 1973 LP called Bean Blossom comes to mind, and 1976 Ralph Stanley Live! From McClure, Va. is another winner.

Review: Blackberry Winter – In These Ozark Hills

 In These Ozark HillsBy Joe Ross
With four traditional tunes, five originals, and eight covers, the Missouri-based string band Blackberry Winter has produced a pleasant album chock full of downhome flavor and personality. These self-professed "old hillbillies" have long resumes with folk, big band, swing, rockabilly and even funk music. Common interests in music, friendship and camaraderie bring the folks together from many walks of life. Blackberry Winter's seven eclectic members have also pursued careers in journalism, broadcasting, photography, nature study, music teaching, massage therapy, realty and home remodeling. The band originally formed when singer/storyteller Marideth Sisco pulled them together to play soundtrack music for "Winter's Bone," an award-winning, thrilling melodrama set in the Missouri Ozarks. The rest of the affable group is Dennis Crider (guitar), Bo Brown (guitar, mandolin, Dobro), Van Colbert (clawhammer banjo), Linda Stoffel (vocals, washboard), Tedi May (bass), and Billy Ward (fiddle). The album's liner notes don't credit the male singers, but one would presume that it's Bo Brown singing his own self-penned "Small Town."

Review: Janie Fricke – Country Side of Bluegrass

Country Side of BluegrassReview by Joe Ross
Janie Fricke has had success with various country styles, whether slower numbers, snappy hard-driving songs, or duet hits with the likes of Johnny Duncan, Charlie Rich, Merle Haggard and Moe Bandy. Like so many other country artists who have released bluegrass music projects, it only seems logical that she add that genre to her catalogue. She started her professional career as a Nashville backup vocalist in 1975. She sang on over 1,200 albums before producer Billy Sherrill launched her career as a solo artist.

Review: Crowe Brothers - 'Bridging The Gap'

The Crowe BrothersReview by Joe Ross
North Carolinan brothers Josh (guitar) and Wayne (bass) have been singing and playing bluegrass for over forty years. They called themselves The Blue Ridge Mountain Boys in the early 1970s. From 1975 until they formed their own band about 1991, they worked with legendary banjo player Raymond Fairchild. During the late-1990s and 2000s, The Crowe Brothers released some stellar albums on the Copper Creek, King and Gusto labels.

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