Chris Jones & The Night Drivers, Lonely Comes Easy: For a band with its members working in multiple arenas in the bluegrass music industry, it’s amazing to hear an album so well played and produced, simply because they all found the time to write the songs, practice them together, and record such a solid album. Chris Jones (lead vocals, guitar), Ned Luberecki (banjo, vocals), Mark Stoffel (mandolin), and Jon Weisberger (bass, vocals) individually shine. Emily Bankester, Jeremy Garrett, Ron Block, Dan Tyminski, Claire Lynch, and Sierra Hull all serve as guests.
Darin & Brooke Aldridge, Flying: The sweethearts of bluegrass, Darin & Brooke Aldridge, have come out with their self-produced album and hit all the marks. Outstanding vocals that fans have come to expect of Brooke, and solid instrumentation and vocals by Darin are centerpiece on this album. A solid backing band of Becky Buller (harmony vocals, fiddle), Collin Willis (Dobro), Dwayne Anderson (acoustic bass), Matt Love (banjo), Tony Creasman (percussion), and Leah Bowen (harmony vocals) give Flying its mighty wings.
Growling Old Men, Chicken Feed & Bailing Twine: The sign of a versatile and pleasing artist is one who listens to his or her fans. That’s what Growling Old Men did for this album: the songs on Chicken Feed & Bailing Twine have all been requested by fans that the Old Men record either because they’re old favorites, or have only been played live. One thing is for sure: These men are neither growling, nor old. They’re men who write, self-produce, and play a great bluegrass album.
Locust Ridge, Healed: Rich harmonies, humble melodies, and themes of redemption and healing abound in Locust Ridge’s new album on Rural Rhythm Christian. Soothing voices of the three Allen brothers: Larry (baritone vocals, and bass), Russell (lead vocals, guitar), and Josh (tenor vocals, mandolin) rise up and give great conviction to each song with well crafted lyrics. Blending like another Allen brother is Andy Blalock on rhythm guitar. Dale Ann Bradley, Larry Riddle and Mike Riddle of Primitive Quartet and Archie Watkins are special guests.
Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road, Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road: The band’s first album with Pinecastle Records is a solid representation of what LJ&CR do best: present striking songs, deliver textured harmonies, and make Carolina proud. The band’s original material prove why LJ&CR are consistent chart toppers and award winners. Ben Greene (banjo, vocals), Josh Goforth (fiddle, mandolin, guitar), Tommy Long (guitar, vocals), and John Bradley (bass) round out Carolina Road with Jordan on lead vocals and mandolin.
Missy Raines & The New Hip, New Frontier: The aptly-titled album from seven-time IBMA bass player of the year Missy Raines speaks volumes to the direction Raines goes on this entirely vocals album, encouraging exploration in each song. Longtime fans of Raines’ bluegrass work will be surprised to know this is an entirely vocal album, showcasing her emotive alto, and underpinned by resonator guitar (Ethan Ballinger), mandolin/acoustic guitar (Jarrod Walker), and percussion (Josh Fox). The result is a testament to Raines’ wide-reaching talent as an artist.
Ricky Skaggs & Bruce Hornsby, Live:Cluck Ol’ Hen: With two different musicians, both successful and stars in their own separate genres, it’s refreshing to hear the excitement and chemistry between Ricky Skaggs and pop legend Bruce Hornsby playing together live. The way Hornsby’s piano blends with Skaggs’ mandolin on traditionals like “Bluegrass Breakdown,” and “Sally Jo,” and Hornsby’s “The Way It Is,” and “Gulf of Mexico Fishing Boat Blues” are genre-transcending and an audible delight. Skaggs and Hornsby will tour together in the fall. The visual treat is the album cover with Bill Monroe picking his mandolin in front of his white limousine, with his chickens pecking the ground on his farm on the outskirts of Nashville taken years ago.
Tom Neal, Banjoland: With a distinct Scruggs-meets-Crowe style, Neal puts banjo first in Banjoland. Along with melodic fiddle tunes, gospel, ballads, and spritely breaks, Banjoland is a well-put-together album by a musician whose expertise is steeped in a firm traditional background. Some of the guests on the album include Michael Cleveland (fiddle), Frank Solivan (mandolin), Mark Cosgrove (guitar), Marshall Wilborn (bass), and Russ Hooper (Dobro).
Brian Vollmer, Old Time Music Party: Instrumentals shine on this album of old time fiddle and clawhammer banjo-laden tunes. Brian Vollmer recorded Old Time Music Party live with no overdubs, making the record sound like a front porch jam session in Appalachia. Also on the album are Joseph DeJarnette, Sarah Jamison, Nate Leath, Rosie Newton, Liz Pickard, Mark Schimick, Max Paskin-Flerlague, and Ben Townsend. The CD looks like a mini vinyl record, mirroring the nostalgic feel of the album.