“Three Kinds of Lonesome” by the Missy Werner Band

The Missy Werner Band
Three Kinds of Lonesome
Self-released
3.5 stars (out of 5)

By Donald Teplyske

Storming out of Ohio this winter is the sophomore project from the Missy Werner Band. Fronted by the mandolin-playing bandleader, this quartet reveals here that they are ready for a national stage.

Produced by noted bluegrass writer and musician Jon Weisberger, Three Kinds of Lonesome is a very strongly crafted contemporary bluegrass album. Professionally recorded but by no means staid, the warm and vibrant performances make even new songs instant favourites.

Following in the footsteps of bandleaders including Lynn Morris and Alison Krauss, Werner has elected to emphasize the Missy Werner Band rather than utilize a contingent of studio hands. Tim Strong plays guitar and contributes vocals while Artie Werner plays the bass and sings. Jeff Roberts is the band’s 5-string player with Missy Werner holding down the mandolin parts and lead vocals.

Only a few instrumental guests appear, notably Mike Witcher on Dobro® and Aaron Till on fiddle. Duet vocals from Frank Solivan (“Endlessly”) and the always dependable Chris Jones (“Just the Same”) provide variety while Jennifer Strickland’s vocals add additional texture.

Several Weisberger co-writes appear throughout the album’s 14 selections. Written with Strickland, “I’d Rather Love a Memory” kicks off the album with a familiar-sounding and appealing melody, and one day I may even place it! Later, “Right Here” – co-written by Lisa Shaffer- and “Let It Go”- written with Ashley Lewis- take different routes toward life’s pathways.

Werner appears comfortable singing the chosen songs and is an emotive singer. One may desire one or two fewer sentimental lost-love songs, but on balance Three Kinds of Lonesome retains this listener’s interest. “I Like the Country”- the Jim McCall song- features nice harmony work from Werner’s bandmates. The album closes with a welcome interpretation of The Bluegrass Cardinals’ “Journey to My Savior’s Side.”

Intentionally, Werner pays tribute to the hard-working women who broke ground as bluegrass bandleaders. “Blue Skies and Teardrops” comes from the Lynn Morris Band album The Bramble & the Rose while Larry Cordle’s “My First Mistake” closed Dale Ann Bradley’s East Kentucky Morning album fifteen years ago.

Modern bluegrass is rife with influences and interpretations that expand the music’s definition. Three Kinds of Lonesome is a bluegrass album that couldn’t have been produced twenty years ago; its balance of contemporary sounds within a fairly traditional band setting is most impressive.

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“Oddfellows Road” by the Bee Eaters

The Bee Eaters
Oddfellows Road
Self-released
3.5 stars (out of 5)

By Donald Teplyske

With no shortage of acoustiblue bands currently creating exceptional instrumental music,
one can be forgiven for having missed the release last fall of The Bee Eaters’ very enjoyable
Oddfellows Road. Thinking the band’s name is The Bee Laters is less forgivable, but I continue
to swear that ‘that’ is no way to make an ‘E’.

Based within but in no way limited by fiddle-traditions, The Bee Eaters are a California-
based outfit focused around siblings Tashina (fiddle) and Tristan (fiddle and cello) Clarridge.
Completing the trio is Simon Chrisman on hammered dulcimer while friend Wesley Corbett
contributes banjo. The band’s sound is augmented by Dominick Leslie’s mandolin on three
tracks including the atmospheric and aggressive “Dry Shasta, Wet Shasta.”

When listening to this generous, hour-long album, one is simultaneously soothed and challenged
by airy yet complex rhythms. The sounds are quite beautiful and feel completely natural, an
effect that the band appears to have deliberately worked toward. One instrumental interlude
flows easily into the next, all supported by a vision that is as real as it is elusive. If there is a fault
to the album, it is that not enough of the songs significantly distinguish themselves from those
that surround them.

Some months ago, I mused that “… on Queen of Yesterday the five-piece Houston Jones band
is tight and mostly laid back, bringing to mind to what a Tim O’Brien-fronted Bruce Hornsby
group might sound like.” In this context, The Bee Eaters sound very much like what an acoustic
Tim O’Brien-fronted Bruce Hornsby group might sound like notwithstanding the album’s only
vocal track, the Bruce Molsky-led rendition of “The Way It Is.” Mike Marshall contributes
mandolin to a single track, “Cumulus.”

The roots of The Bee Eaters music can certainly be found in bluegrass, but as prominent are the
elements of jazz, blues, chamber music, and all matter of intricate folk sounds they weave into
their repertoire. Sparse banjo notes punctuate an instrumental flow that is at turns gripping and
hypnotic.

As someone who has heard precisely seventy-six too many acoustic renditions of Michael
Jackson songs, I was very surprised to find appreciation in The Bee Eaters’ cover of “Thriller.”
More than novelty, this playful rendition- built around the group’s instrumental strengths- is
naturally one of the more memorable tunes contained within Oddfellows Road.

Oddfellows Road is a mature release that serves as excellent introduction to The Bee Eaters. This
writer anticipates hearing more from this promising group.

“The Touch of Time” by Bill Emerson & Sweet Dixie


Bill Emerson & Sweet Dixie
The Touch of Time
Rural Rhythm Records
4 stars (out of 5)

By Larry Stephens

I suspect that, for most of us, the older we get the more we reflect on the passing of the years. I don’t know what the person who named this new CD was thinking, but it seems like an apt title when you consider the years Bill Emerson has been playing bluegrass. A message on the bluegrass listserv led us to an array of photos taken at Indian Hill in 1972 and there’s a shot of the Country Gentlemen: Bill Emerson, Doyle Lawson, Charlie Waller and Bill Yates. (I think that may be Elvis off to the side.) Time touches us all.

Emerson began playing music in 1955 and, around 1956, joined Buzz Busby and the Bayou Boys. In 1957 he joined forces with Charlie Waller and John Duffy to form the Country Gentlemen. Over the next sixteen years he played and recorded with a host of famous bluegrass names including Cliff Waldron, the Stonemans, Jimmy Martin, Bill Harrell and Red Allen as well as rejoining the Gents a second time and fronting the Virgina Mountaineers.

In 1973 he started down a different road, spending two decades with the US Navy Band and their offshoot, County Current, while still doing some personal work.

His career resolved in 2007 with his current band, Sweet Dixie. The Touch of Time is their third release.

Sweet Dixie includes Wayne Lanham (mandolin and vocals – The New Shades of Grass), Chris Stifel (guitar and vocals – The Country Store), Terri Chism (bass and vocals – The New Shades of Grass) and featuring Jenny Leigh Obert (fiddle).

As expected, the instrumentalists are all top notch. The band features good harmonies and the CD is very entertaining. Included are two Pete Gobel numbers: a lament of lost love, “Today I Turned Your Picture To The Wall” (not to be confused with the Norah Jones number) and a beautiful gospel song, “Last Night I was There.” It’s hard to beat songs penned by Gobel.

“My Baby Thinks He’s a Train” was a 1981 hit for Rosanne Cash and Terri’s version is just as good. “Little Pink” is shown as a Traditional and may be an offshoot of “Pretty Little Pink.” Many of these old songs have as many verses as they do years as well as tune variations. Wherever they found it, it’s a song that should be performed more often and makes a great instrumental, and their version has plenty of instrumental breaks.

Four instrumentals are included. “Electric Avenue” and “These Ones” are uptempo numbers from Emerson. “Home Sweet Dixie Home” was co-written and performed with guest Bill Evans. It’s another driving number and you can hear reflections of the old song, “Home, Sweet Home.” Wayne Lanham contributes “Castle Hayne” and this one just flies. This is another tune that should be picked up and played until it becomes a standard.

“Love Gone Cold” was written by Johnny Bond, known for such past hits as “Divorce Me C.O.D.” and “Hot Rod Lincoln.” Emerson also reaches out to Dolly Parton, including “You’re The Highlight of My Life.” That’s not my favorite Parton song but their harmonies make it good listening. The title song (by Stifel) is different for a bluegrass number but it’s an interesting song, a message about the passage of time done in a minor chord. Rounding out the CD is another unusual song, at least for bluegrass, “The Rope.” To my ear the tune bears a strong resemblance to Tom T Hall’s “I Washed My Face In The Morning Dew.” You have to read the lyrics to figure out it is a quasi-gospel song; it was originally done by Martina McBride back in 1992.

Emerson has been in the bluegrass scene for over five decades but he hasn’t let his music become stale and his banjo playing is as good as ever. This is a good CD to add to your collection.