“Tell Someone” by the Kenny and Amanda Smith Band

Kenny and Amanda Smith Band
Tell Someone
Rebel Records
4 stars (out of 5)

Former Lonesome River Band guitarist Kenny Smith began recording this project directly following the death of his father in a farming accident, and and knowing that makes this Gospel album, which is dedicated to his memory, poignant, relevant and touching. Even with, or perhaps because of, the somber inspiration, Tell Someone is a fun jaunt through familiar and new gospel songs, uplifting rather than sorrowful.

The Kenny & Amanda Smith Band is made up of Smith on vocals and guitar and wife Amanda on vocals, with Jason Robertson on mandolin, Jason Davis on banjo, and Zachary McLamb on bass. Vocalist Wayne Winkle and fiddler Daniel Carwile each guest on about half of the album’s 13 tracks.

Frequently called upon guest artist Rhonda Vincent adds her vocals the the mix on the upbeat opening number “Shoutin’ Time,” one of my favorites on the disc. Other standouts include the festive standard “Stepping on the Clouds”and the lovely, dreamlike “Angels Calling at My Door.” New compositions for this album “Mary Had a Little Boy,” “Till I Get Home,” and “I Know Why.”

Kenny, Amanda and the rest of the musicians poured a great deal of passion and heart into this offering; you can hear the energy and emotion put into every note. The sounds are delicate, harmony-filled, and peaceful, with Amanda’s smooth, angelic voice perfectly complimenting the instrumentals like a mountain stream on a quiet, windless day. This is a beautiful, endearing album, a fitting tribute to a father who served as such an influence on a son’s musical dreams.

by Katy Leonard

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“Bluegrass Melodies” by Bobby Osborne and the Rocky Top X-press

Bobby Osborne and the Rocky Top X-press
Bluegrass Melodies
Rounder Records
4 Stars (out of 5)

Bobby Osborne and pals have created a fun, great-sounding album with his newest offering Bluegrass Melodies.  While Glen Duncan guests on fiddle, the rest of the musicians on the album are the current lineup of the Rocky Top X-Press: Bobby Osborne Jr. on guitar, Dana Cupp on banjo, Daryl Mosely on bass, Matt Despain on dobro/resophonic guitar, and Bobby Osborne himself on mandolin, with all members contributing on vocals.

Most of the songs on the album showcase Osborne’s clear, strong voice, and all of the tunes are made fresh and filled with energy by the ensemble.  There’s a nice mix of love songs, gospel tunes and semi-modern interpretations, such as John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy,” complete with joyful instrumental breaks.

Bobby does a nice job with Vince Gill’s “Go Rest High Upon That Mountain,” bringing in Rhonda Vincent on vocals and providing a more high and lonesome interpretation, somewhat more raw than the original.  The harmonies throughout are really nice – stacked thick and juicy.  My favorite tune on this album is the opener, “What Kind of Fool.”  It’s sad and pitiful, but moving.

Bobby has such a pleasant voice, comforting and just forlorn enough.  “I Would Like to See You” is another of my favorite selections, Osborne’s voice simply does great justice to love themes.  The whole album sounds perfectly polished and well-rehearsed, yet it staunchly avoids staleness or staticity.

by Katy Leonard