Bill Grant & Delia Bell
4.5 stars (out of 5)
By Donald Teplyske
Of the digital-only albums to come our way from Rebel and County in these past months, the one that made my heart pitter-patter the quickest was Rollin’. With Bill Grant and Delia Bell music rarely being spotted for sale, the reissue of this 1981 album is welcome.
Bell’s voice is the centerpiece of the album; like the late Hazel Dickens, Bell has a voice that is as natural as it is beautiful: you can hear the working girl blues in every syllable of “No One Else.” “Moods of a Fool” is one of those lonesome bluegrass songs that define the genre.
Bill Grant’s voice blends wonderfully with Bell’s and his lead work is top notch. When he sings, “When I hear that trumpet blow / someone will call my name” in “Goin’ to See My Jesus” or “It’s you and only you” in “Only You,” one would be hard pressed to identify that he’s from the mid-western plains rather than the hills of Kentucky.
Don’t get me started on their renditions of “The Rock Pile,” “The Girl at the Crossroads Bar,” and “Stone Walls and Steel Bars.” Wonderful singing, beautiful playing.
While listening to Rollin’, an extended fiddle break within “Take My Hand and Tell Me” caught my ear, I thought, “That sounds like Benny Martin.” It doesn’t happen with me very often, but when it does I feels like I may actually know something—turns out, it was indeed the Big Tiger fiddling on this Josh Graves-produced album.
Credits aren’t provided with the download, but research tells me that Joe Stuart played lead guitar throughout with Gordon Reid on banjo. Joe Pointer manned the bass.
I believe we turn to bluegrass for self-affirmation, an assurance that our lives are tolerable partly in recognition that others are experiencing challenges similar to our own. If true, such evidence is present in almost all of this album’s music.
Recorded a few years before Bell’s Emmylou Harris-produced Warner Brothers album, Rollin’ is crucial listening for those who like to hear more than a little Oklahoma country in the mix.