The David Grisman Bluegrass Experience
3 stars (out of 5)
This is the first album from David Grisman’s San Francisco Bay Area ensemble, consisting of Keith Little on banjo, guitar, and vocals, Jim Nunally on guitar and vocals, Chad Manning on fiddle, Samson Grisman on bass, and David Grisman on mandolin and vocals.
The sound is oddly reigned in for Grisman. His love for old-school bluegrass is evident in the instrument lineup, the vocal harmonies, and the overall sound, and the mostly familiar tunes are presented as one would hear them played by a typical bluegrass band. The group’s aesthetic is rough, jagged, and filled with energy, but there are no jazzy melodies or jamming here.
The album includes old favorites such as The Carter Family’s “Engine 143,” Flatt and Scruggs’s “Ruben’s Train,” and The Stanley Brothers’ “Say Won’t You Be Mine,” as well as David Grisman’s familiar “Dawggy Mt. Breakdown” and “Old and in the Way.” It’s convincing as a traditional bluegrass offering, but the Bluegrass Experience doesn’t really offer a unique take on these standards, which, no matter how good the picking, is a little deflating given the originality Grisman is known for.
by Katy Leonard
The Lonesome Sisters with Rayna Gellert
Follow Me Down
Tin Halo Music THMCD-0605
4.5 Stars (out of 5)
The Lonesome Sisters – Sarah Hawker and Debra Clifford – live in the Catskills, but their sound emanates from southern Appalachia. On its third release, the duo teams with fiddler Rayna Gellert (from the band Uncle Earl) on a superb set of primitive ballads and old-time music.
Follow Me Down features mostly originals with a seamless smattering of traditionals. These award-winning songwriters take time-honored themes love and death, and craft tunes that seem older than the hills. From the despair of a dying daughter’s departure in “Babylon” to the comfort of salvation in “When the Angels Call My Name,” the Lonesome Sisters masterfully balance heartbreak and hope and illuminate the fine line between joy and pain.
Brilliant, understated arrangements range from the a cappella “Darlin’ Don’t You Know That’s Wrong” to the three-piece title track. Simple guitar strums and gentle harmonies often underlie lyrical landslides like, “It’s better to be alone than to be lonely.” Gellert’s soulful fiddle goes across the mountain and paces the reflective instrumental closer.
It only takes a few seconds of the beautiful “Blackbird” to embrace the Lonesome Sisters’ charm, but it takes nearly 65 minutes to follow them down this 17-track tour de force. It’s a journey of abundant musical and spiritual rewards.
by Tim Walsh